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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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The Only Gun Reform Story Is Republican Obstruction

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.

Pandemics And Massacres Are Real Life, Not 'Theater'

Perhaps Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky needs a refresher course on the meaning of the word "theater." His GOP colleague Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas could listen in.

The former recently initiated a verbal brawl with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who has been providing information and advice to guide Americans dealing, along with the rest of the world, with a deadly pandemic. The latter accused anyone proposing the consideration of gun restrictions, in light of two horrific mass shootings in the space of a week, of "ridiculous theater."

Now, I realize the term "theatrical" can be used as an insult hurled at someone accused of exaggeration, but what is happening in America is a fact. So let me offer my own definition: "Theater" is the thrill of escaping from it all in a darkened hall with a group of strangers, to see and hear professionals act or sing or dance, and to be uplifted by the experience, if only for an hour or two.

And it's something we've been deprived of during this past, very long year amid the pain of COVID-19, with deadly gun violence that has not abated as a backdrop, and so much more.

The country has been crawling out of isolation because of dropping COVID-19 infection rates and the rising number of people receiving vaccines, though recent trends show cases on the rise again in more than 20 states. At a recent Senate hearing, Fauci cautioned against prematurely ditching precautions, such as wearing masks, until the virus is under control. Medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree.

That's when Paul called the act of wearing masks "theater." He challenged the necessity of masks for those who have had the virus (he has) or have gotten the vaccine (he has not).

Paul imagines he is an authority because of his COVID-19 experience and because he has selectively extracted parts of reports that align with his own conclusions. (He is a doctor of ophthalmology.) He is certainly luckier than the more than 540,000 Americans who have died after contracting the virus and the many long-haulers left with lingering symptoms and side effects.

At the Senate hearing, not his first clash with the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it seemed that Paul was going for a viral theatrical moment of his own, as he kept interrupting Fauci with pronouncements and questions whose answers Paul ignored.

An exasperated Fauci explained to Paul as he would to a third-grader that the studies on COVID-19 are far from conclusive and that variants add even more uncertainty into expectations about how the virus is spread and how much and how long vaccines are most effective.

Reality Bites

Everyone is understandably frustrated. Businesses want and need to open to capacity. Children and parents, as well as teachers and staffers, long for school like it used to be. People want to meet friends. "Cabin fever" is too frivolous a term for what everyone is going through.

But Americans also want to be safe. So they listen to repetitious advice to put on that mask, grab the sanitizer and keep safe distances. And they wait to get on a list for a vaccine. Well, some do. Others crowd beaches for spring break or visit crowded clubs, which is some of the behavior Fauci was warning against.

President Joe Biden promised relief, more vaccines with efficient and equitable distribution, and asked for the help and cooperation of Americans. Results have been mixed, with leaders such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem more intent on leaning into culture wars than managing the pandemic in their states. With an eye on a growing national profile, Noem insisted at CPAC that Fauci "is wrong a lot," joining other 2024 hopefuls in insisting there is nothing to see here.

No Republicans, and that includes Paul and Cruz, voted in favor of a relief package that a majority of polled Americans favored. I wonder if Paul had access to the best, insured medical care in his own COVID-19 fight. Meanwhile, many who could not afford to stay home or call in sick to their jobs have been keeping the country going.

Several of those essential workers were doing their jobs at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket this week when they were shot and killed by a gunman, a case that is still being investigated, as is the shooting that left eight dead in Atlanta last week. A discussion of gun policy and Second Amendment rights is possible without dismissing opponents' concerns as "theater."

Real Theater

That word, though, is not the insult Paul and Cruz think it is.

Some people escape with sports or by going to the gym or cooking or reading a good book. Though I may do all of the above, it's theater that lifts my heart. I recall the last Broadway show I attended, the musical Moulin Rouge, all cheekily garish sets, loud music, stylish dancing, and a plot you could see coming from a mile away. I loved every minute, and even had a picture taken close by the stage. When I shared it on social media, and it was "liked" by one of my favorites, Danny Burstein, who played the club impresario, I was in theater nerd heaven. Then, when it was announced that Burstein, along with many of the show's cast, had come down with the virus, I knew it was time to rip up the tickets for my next theater outing. Everything had changed.

It's not that I don't dearly miss visiting family members, hugging my friends, or returning to the now-dark Broadway scene.

But when Anthony Fauci says to keep wearing masks, at least for now, I'm going to listen to him, not Rand Paul. And when leaders work to figure out a way to make Americans feel safe from violence when they do venture out, I won't immediately attack their efforts and their motives, which is Ted Cruz's go-to move.

It's about knowing the difference between real life and make believe.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Americans Shouldn’t Have To Live In Foxholes

In the 14 days after the death of George Floyd, 19 people across the country died in violent protests. Not all the deaths were gun-related, and some of the dead were engaged in criminal activity. Nonetheless, the nation responded with shock and talked of little else in the weeks that followed.

This week, a single gunman killed more than half that number in one hour at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. All 10 victims, we assume, were innocents.

I'm not particularly interested in the "what's his name" or the "why he did it." (The ritual still includes examining a psychopath's grievances.)

There have been at least 246 mass shootings in the U.S. since January 2009. We know the routine well.

It took no time for the partisan-divide reactions to emerge. Most Democrats said we must tighten the gun laws. Most Republicans who bothered to respond offered only prayers. And the National Rifle Association, as is usually the case after these outrages, went into temporary hiding.

But the public is not divided. Two surveys from 2019 show huge majorities, Republicans as well as Democrats, supporting stricter gun laws. Gun owners want them, too.

Twenty-two dead at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Twenty-six fatally shot at a rural church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Twelve gunned down at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Seventeen students and educators killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Then there were really big ones: the 49 shot to death at the Pulse night club in Orlando and that astounding killing spree in Las Vegas, where a man perched in a hotel window picked off 58 lives at a music festival below.

For unspeakable horror, nothing matched 20 grade school children getting gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut. The next year, bills banning assault weapons and expanding background checks for gun buyers were introduced in the Senate and defeated.

If that didn't bring change, can change happen? Yes.

Just as the coronavirus has kept many Americans away from certain public places, so, apparently, has fear of getting shot, according to the American Psychological Association. Nearly a third of adults "feel they cannot go anywhere without worrying about being a victim of a mass shooting."

A foxhole is a hole in the ground in which soldiers shelter against enemy fire. Americans are now seeking similar protection by avoiding crowds. At some point, they will rebel against these restrictions on their movements. And they'll do that by voting, by electing officials who will stop mentally ill people from buying assault weapons with magazines that hold 15 rounds of ammunition.

The city of Boulder approved a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in 2018. A district court only days ago struck it down, citing a state law that forbids cities and counties from regulating firearms more tightly than the state does. Voters can replace the state legislators who passed this law.

On the national level, Colorado voters might want to replace their own gun-twirling exhibitionist, Lauren Boebert. Elected last year by Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, Boebert glommed on to the nation's attention by throwing a tantrum when asked to go through a metal detector at the House of Representatives. That was after she loudly encouraged the mob that rampaged through the Capitol.

Democratic candidates are already lining up to take her on in 2024. They include Kerry Donovan, a prominent state senator, and Gregg Smith, a Marine and former CEO of Frontier Services Group.

These mass shootings don't have to continue with the ferocity and the numbers we've come to know — but only if the voters will it. They may be ready. Americans should not have to live in foxholes.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Boebert Blames Boulder Supermarket For Massacre

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) said on Tuesday that a supermarket's ban on the open carry of guns contributed to the number of casualties in the mass shooting that occurred there on Monday in Boulder, Colorado, and complained that the supermarket was a "soft target."

A gunman killed 10 people at the King Soopers grocery store.

Appearing on Newsmax TV's Greg Kelly Reports, Boebert said of calls by Democratic lawmakers for more gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the shooting, "It's very unfortunate that their first, knee-jerk reaction is to limit our ability to defend ourself."

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,

"Open carry" refers to the practice of carrying openly visible firearms in public. Though most states continue to require a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon, many states now place few or no restrictions on open carry. In fact, some states have imposed draconian requirements on private businesses that wish to keep deadly weapons off their property.

Boebert said she openly carries a gun with her when shopping because "unfortunately you don't know if there's going to be something like this that happens in a grocery store."

The congresswoman claimed that the supermarket in question was "very much a soft target where open carry was banned."

"It's very — looked down upon, so a lot of law-abiding gun owners don't want to patronize businesses like that. And they'll go on down the road and shop elsewhere," she added.

Boebert lashed out at gun safety groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, which have pushed for restrictions on firearms after frequent mass shootings.

"What they don't want, really, is to empower people to stop things like this. To give us the tools to stop things like this, and that's guns," Boebert said. "That would absolutely neutralize a threat like this, and we would have seen less casualties."

The Giffords Law Center says that open carry of firearms can escalate tense situations, adding an element of greater danger to already volatile situations. It also notes, "White Supremacists have long used firearms—and permissive open carry laws—to threaten and intimidate others, with examples of such violence going back to the Reconstruction era."

Open carry also contributes to confusion on the part of law enforcement when officers are responding to deadly situations, making it more difficult for them to determine the source of the threat.

From the March 23 edition of Newsmax TV's "Greg Kelly Reports":

GREG KELLY, host: It seems like we've seen this movie before, Congresswoman?
LAUREN BOEBERT: Yes, and it's very unfortunate that their first, knee-jerk reaction is to limit our ability to defend ourself. There are bad people who do bad things, and we need a way to protect ourselves because we don't know when they're going to act on the things that are rolling through their minds and consuming their thoughts.
And so we need a way to protect ourself [sic]. That's why I carry. You know, I've been asked many times, "Why do you carry in a grocery store?" Well, unfortunately, you don't know if there's going to be something like this that happens in a grocery store. But at the end of the day, when violence occurs, my first reaction will never be to try to disarm and restrict the American people.
Ninety-six percent of mass public shootings occur in gun-free zones, and this King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, was very much a soft target where open carry was banned, and it's very discouraged in Boulder, of all places, in Colorado, to carry a firearm.
And it's very – looked down upon, so a lot of law-abiding gun owners don't want to patronize businesses like that. And they'll go on down the road and shop elsewhere.
You know, we hear from groups like Everytown and Moms Demand Action, who don't want our thoughts and prayers, which is really unfortunate, because first of all, prayer works, and I believe in a God that hears us and a God who cares for us. But what they don't want, really, is to empower people to stop things like this, to give us the tools to stop things like this, and that's guns. That would absolutely neutralize a threat like this, and we would have seen less casualties.
But we need to stop creating target-rich environments for evil people to attack.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.