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Student "lie-in" at the White House to demand new gun safety laws

Photo by Lorie Shaull is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

America's deadly scroll of mass murders doesn't have a pause button:

•April 15: Eight dead in Indianapolis.

•April 13: Six dead in Allen, Texas.

•April 7: Six dead in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

•March 31: Four dead in Orange, California.

•March 28: Five dead in Essex, Maryland.

•March 22: Ten dead in Boulder, Colorado.

•March 16: Eight dead in Atlanta.

We are stuck on this deadly loop because Republicans categorically refuse to pass common sense gun safety initiatives that enjoy overwhelmingly public support. That's it — that's the only Beltway story that matters in terms of the habitual mass murders that plague America in a way they haunt no other country on the planet.

Yet after each numbing gun rampage, the press glosses over the GOP's radical obstruction. The media have absorbed as fact that a small number of Republican senators can hold the country hostage to assault weapon mass murders, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The unspoken point from the press is there is no legislative fix — that's a narrative that lets Republicans off the hook.

"When does it become urgent?" lamented a CNN anchor on Friday, in the wake of the Indianapolis workplace slaughter, just moments after a CNN reporter suggested all gun reform bills remain in "limbo," which represents a very passive way to cover this ongoing American nightmare.

Republicans and their blind allegiance to the NRA exacerbate this crisis by blocking gun reform laws while simultaneously loosening ownership restrictions and helping to flood the country with firearms. Yet how many "Republicans Still Oppose All Gun Reform In Wake of Mass Murders" headlines have you read in the last month? I haven't seen any. But I have seen lots of coverage about how "Congress" can't pass gun laws, how there's "gridlock," and even how the lack of meaningful new gun laws might be the fault of Democrats.

In a Politico article about President Joe Biden urging new gun reform legislation last week, this was the entirety of the role Republicans play [emphasis added]: "The legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate, which Democrats hold by the slimmest possible majority and would need 10 Republicans to get on board. Democrat-backed efforts to enact gun reform legislation have failed in recent years."

Why have gun reform bills "failed in recent years"? Politico doesn't mention the GOP's radical obstruction. Meanwhile, in this CNN article about why gun laws don't get passed, the word "Republican" is never even mentioned.

Even when the media do address the issue of Republicans and gun reform, they botch the story. "I wrote an article three years ago, explaining why Republicans were unlikely to change their minds and why there was little backlash to them opposing a measure that some polls indicate is supported by more than 80% of Americans," CNN's Harry Enten posted last week. Left unsaid was the fact that a key reason Republicans don't face a "backlash" is because the press routinely portray GOP's obstruction as mere "gridlock," or "Washington" being unable to pass laws.

Enten's analysis stressed that Republicans haven't moved on the specific issue of gun reform because polling suggests they don't have to. What he conveniently omitted was the fact that Republicans oppose Biden on everything. Just like Republicans opposed Obama on everything. The press for years has refused to tell that simple truth about today's GOP.

The New York Times recently asked "Is Biden Missing His Chance on Guns?," as if the Democrats were the reason bills don't get signed into law. In the wake of the Indianapolis massacre — that city's third mass shooting this year — U.S. News announced, "After Shootings, Even Democrats Pose a Barrier to Gun Control Legislation." The Both Sides article included zero evidence that Democrats are blocking gun safety bills.

Following the latest mass murder last week, the Times again framed the issue as being about Biden's lack of action, stressing that he "rejected calls to appoint a gun "czar" to more forcefully confront the crisis." The Times also reported gun legislation fails because of "apparent gridlock." This is exactly how Republicans want the gun reform debate to be covered.

Blaming Democrats for the GOP's concrete obstruction isn't new. The Beltway press did the same thing to President Barack Obama, when his administration made a major push to pass a background check bill after 20 first graders were massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT in late 2012. Even after Democrats whittled the bill down to a fraction of its original intent in order to win enough Republican votes to break the filibuster, the GOP refused to pass the bill.

Incredibly, the pundit class then blamed Obama: If only he had acted sooner, or proposed other legislation, or talked more often to Republicans, or not held public events in support of new gun laws. If Obama had just done everything differently, pundits suggested, he would've been able to win substantial Republican support and been able to easily secure passage of new gun safety legislation. Democrats were criticized for getting "cocky" during the legislative process, missing "their window" following the school massacre in Newtown, CT., and for "grasping at straws."

Following the Sandy Hook mass murder, Republicans for months blocked every conceivable Democratic proposal, and the pundits blamed…Democrats. Nearly ten years later we know there's nothing Democrats can do in terms of cajoling, because Republicans mindlessly oppose addressing gun safety no matter how many Americans die.

By the way, how radical of a shift is today's GOP behavior on guns? Note that in 1999,31 Senate Republicans voted in favor of mandating background checks at gun shows. And in 1994, 42 House Republicans voted for the Crime Bill, which included a ban on assault weapons. But all of that context gets left out of gun reform coverage today, as the press pretends Republicans have always been uniformly opposed to new laws to protect citizens.

There's a mass murder crisis in this country, and the press needs to tell the truth about the GOP and its role.

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