Here’s the price of our inaction on gun violence: More dead. More wounded. And no answers | John L. Micek

EL PASO, TEXAS - AUGUST 04: A woman walks away from a makeshift memorial outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting which left at least 20 people dead, on August 4, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. A 21-year-old male suspect, identified as Patrick Crusius from a Dallas suburb, surrendered to police at the scene. At least 26 people were wounded in the shooting. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Official Washington might have averted its gaze from the scourge of gun violence to focus on the unfolding impeachment drama surrounding President Donald Trump. But it’s been a deadly six weeks in cities and towns across America.

Between Aug. 31 — when seven people were fatally shot in Odessa, Texas — and Oct. 9, there have been a total of 45 mass shootings across the nation this year, leaving 79 people dead and 159 more wounded.

That’s according to research by The Gun Violence Archive, an online database that’s compiled from more than 6,5000 law enforcement, media and commercial sources every day. The group defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are either injured or killed, not including the shooter.

Among them was an Oct. 6 shooting at a tequila bar in Kansas City, Ks., in which four people were killed and five more wounded. One man wounded in the incident, who was identified as Michael Barajas, told a local television station that he “[felt] bad, and in a way I feel selfish, you know, that I got out and a lot of people didn’t.”

A day later, on Oct. 7, five people were killed in a shooting in Abington, Mass., near Boston, in what authorities ruled a murder-suicide. Three of the dead were children, the Boston Globe reported.

Despite the cries for a solution by survivors and their advocates, and an initial burst of activity on Capitol Hill after Congress returned to session in September, exactly nothing has changed. Congress has not passed expanded background checks or a measure encouraging so-called “red flag” bills that are specifically intended to prevent firearms-related suicides.

That’s the price of inaction: 45 mass shootings. 159 wounded. And 79 dead.

In the nearly seven years that have passed since 26 people, including 20 children, were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., anti-gun violence advocates have grown frustratingly accustomed to the burst of energy, and then the seemingly inevitable legislative paralysis, that follows each act of violence.

“We allow a small, but loud, group of gun enthusiasts far too much power,” said Shanna Danielson, a central Pennsylvania educator, mom, and member of the grassroots gun-violence prevention group Moms Demand Action. 

“We live in mass hysteria now so that a few insecure people can feel important?” Danielson asked, not entirely hypothetically. “I know my colleagues in Moms fight this fight every day, meeting by meeting, tabling event by tabling event. We are making progress, but it’s not fast enough to save the people who will die in tonight’s shootings. And it’s sickening.”

Certainly a large portion of the blame lies with President Donald Trump who, with each mass shooting, has embraced gun violence reduction measures, only to drop them in the face of pressure from his base and the National Rifle Association.

Equal blame lies with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who, seemingly forgetting that he’s a top official in an independent branch of the government, effectively scuttled any debate on guns by saying he wouldn’t bring a bill to a vote unless he was certain the eternally fickle Trump would sign it.

Since then? Forty-five mass shootings, 159 wounded, and 79 dead. And it’s not as if McConnell’s home state has been immune from gun violence. According to a local television station, a 33-year-old man from New Concord, Ky., was in critical condition this week after being shot in the leg with a shotgun during an alleged altercation.

Maybe one guy wasn’t enough to wrest McConnell’s attention away from the unfolding impeachment conflagration. But certainly, he’s been in the Senate long enough to both “walk and chew gum” as the old saying goes.

But the all-encompassing nature of the impeachment debate is “clearly crowding out the opportunity to do most other kinds of legislation at the moment,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said this week. “My hope is this moment doesn’t last terribly long. And after it has passed, we’re able to and maybe even more able to pass some legislation.”

Toomey is co-sponsoring legislation with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would expand gun background checks to all commercial sales, including gun shows and online sales. Anti-gun violence advocates have called on Toomey to drop that effort and instead get behind what they say is a stronger measure sponsored by U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, who hails from Newtown.

Toomey said this week that he’s continuing to try to build support for the bill he and Manchin are co-sponsoring.

“That’s my goal, that remains my goal, I still think there’s a chance that we can get there,” he said.

Toomey’s Democratic counterpart from Pennsylvania, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, told the Capital-Star this week that McConnell and Republicans are “playing with fire” by dragging their feet on such key issues as guns, healthcare reform, and fighting climate change.

McConnell has been “more reactive than he has been,” Casey allowed. “We’ll see when we go back in October and November, see if can get away with it. If not, there will be a verdict in November 2020 and the president should be concerned about it.”

In the meantime, by the time you finish reading this, someone, somewhere, will have been shot with a gun in America. The data suggests they might die.

Because that’s the price of inaction.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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