Republicans spew outrageous nonsense at Senate gun violence hearing

Flags were flying at full staff for only a few hours between Monday—when they were at half staff due to last week's Atlanta spa shootings—and when President Biden ordered them back to half staff to honor the victims of the Boulder, Colorado, supermarket shootings. Ten people were killed in Boulder; eight were killed in Atlanta.

Biden spoke Tuesday, calling on the Senate to "immediately pass the two House-passed bills that close holes in the background check system. These are bills that received votes of both Republicans and Democrats in the House. This is not and should not be a partisan issue. It's an American issue. It will save lives, American lives, and we have to act. We should also ban assault weapons in the process."

The mass shooting in Boulder came two weeks after a judge blocked a local law banning AR-15-style weapons and magazines with a greater than a 10-shot capacity. And it came the evening before a previously scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. At that hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz angrily said that "what happens in this committee after every mass shooting is Democrats propose taking away guns from law-abiding citizens, because that's their political objective."

Let's start with the fact that this hearing wasn't supposed to come the morning after a mass shooting. That just happened, spontaneously, because America. Can I get a U-S-A chant going in here?

Cruz was touting his own gun legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley, which focuses on keeping people with mental illness from having guns, claiming that this, not Democratic proposals, would do the most to prevent gun violence. He was doing this literally the week after eight murders were allegedly committed by someone who had bought a handgun that very day, with no waiting period, legally. The suspect in the Atlanta shootings does not appear to have a history of mental illness, and, of course, the vast, vast majority of people with mental illness do not shoot people. Other countries have people with mental illness and do not have the gun violence of the United States. Cruz is hammering on a bill that would only stigmatize people, not do anything about gun violence.

Cruz is also focusing his ire on Democrats wanting to take guns away from law-abiding citizens at the same moment Republicans are objecting vociferously to the Violence Against Women Act because it would close the "boyfriend loophole," taking guns away from stalkers and men who have committed violence against women they had relationships with.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn described the importance of guns for protecting businesses against racial justice protesters, specifically citing Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Kyle Rittenhouse became a hero of the far right by shooting and killing two protesters.

Sen. John Kennedy railed against strengthening gun laws because "We have a lot of drunk drivers in America ... We ought to try to combat that too. But I think what many people on my side of the aisle are saying too is the answer is not not to get rid of all sober drivers. The answer is to concentrate on the problem."

As Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts responded, Kennedy "is a gun lobby lackey who knows we reduced car accident deaths through a whole host of solutions, including seatbelts, speed limits and enhanced car technology. Congress hasn't even tried trying to do anything like that when it comes to reducing gun deaths."

We have licensing requirements for cars. We have insurance requirements and seatbelt requirements and the cars themselves have been made safer and safer over the years. If you drive drunk, you are likely to face consequences in a way many people do not face for unsafe handling of guns. And you know what? Cars have a purpose beyond killing things. They do kill things, because they are large dangerous machines, but that's not the central thing cars do. Killing is the central thing guns do. Other uses are the side project when it comes to guns.

Mass shootings fell out of the news in 2020 because they weren't happening in schools and supermarkets, but the shootings went on. There were a record number of mass shootings in 2020, USA Today reports. They just happened in neighborhoods and to people that don't draw media attention. There were also more than 41,000 gun deaths in 2020, more than 20,000 of them suicides.

So Ted Cruz can save his outrage about hearings that fall right after mass shootings. It's like being outraged about a day that ends in Y falling right after a mass shooting. Marsha Blackburn needs to come out and say directly what she implicitly conveyed: that the argument for guns is to preserve white supremacy. John Kennedy can shut his mouth about cars, because Mr. Rhodes Scholar over there knows just how false that argument is.

In the wake of the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reaffirmed that the Senate will vote on background check bills already passed by the House, one of the bills having 84% public support. It's going to be yet another piece of legislation blocked in the Senate by the filibuster and by minority rule, just as "54 senators who voted for background checks in 2013 represented 76 MILLION more Americans than 46 senators who killed bill," as Ari Berman pointed out.

End the filibuster. Pass stronger gun laws.

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