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The mass murder of 19 children and two of their teachers in Texas last week prompted Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell to say he hoped senators could find “a bipartisan solution” to the problem. But if that kind of response sounds familiar — and not particularly inspiring — that’s because he’s said it before, to close the door later.
McConnell told CNN he “encouraged” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to engage with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (CT) and Sen. Krysten Sinema (AZ) about areas of potential agreement on the news gun laws.
“I hope we can find a bipartisan solution,” he said.
While it’s notable that McConnell has signaled his willingness to talk about changes to the laws governing gun ownership in the United States, in McConnell’s case it’s just a small step above the immediate dismissal of actions on firearms.
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Time and time again, McConnell’s “hope” for a bipartisan solution has simply prolonged the inevitable: inaction.
In June 2016, after a man with a gun murdered 49 people at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, McConnell told reporters that “nobody wants terrorists to have guns.”
“We’re open to serious suggestions from experts about what we could do to be helpful,” he said.
But when a bill that would have given the Justice Department the ability to “deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists” been put to a vote, it failed along party lines except for one vote. McConnell was one of 53 Republican senators who voted no.
In August 2019, after mass shootings within 24 hours at a Walmart in El Paso and a nightclub in Dayton, then-President Donald Trump expressed support for “really sensible, sensible and important”.
“Today, the President called on Congress to work in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to address the recent mass murders that have rocked our nation,” McConnell said in a statement Aug. 5. “Senate Republicans are ready to do their part.”
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“Only serious, bipartisan and bicameral efforts will allow us to continue this important work and produce new laws that can be passed by the Senate, by the House and gain the signature of the President,” he said. “Partisan theatrics and campaign rhetoric will only lead us away from the progress that all Americans deserve.”
“What we can’t do is not achieve something,” McConnell said in a WHAS radio interview a few days later. “The urgency of this escapes none of us.”
Even Trump bought into McConnell’s words.
“I’m convinced Mitch wants to do something,” Trump told reporters on Aug. 13, 2019.
But a month later, as Trump’s passion for the issue waned, McConnell changed course.
“My members know very simply that to make a law, you have to have the presidential signature,” he told reporters on September 10.
No vote has ever taken place.
McConnell’s office declined to comment on this report.
McConnell’s habit of deferring to a theoretical, distant concept of a bipartisan solution has the same effect as politicians offering their ‘thoughts and prayers’ to victims – only it’s less recognizable as an empty gesture of change . McConnell, however, hasn’t always been above offering those thoughts and prayers.
Mitch McConnell never puts America first
In June 2015, after a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, McConnell went to the Senate to let “the American people know that the Senate is thinking of him today. and to the victims he loved. ”
“We are also thinking of the entire congregation of this historic church,” he said.
No legislative change ever came from the Charleston shootings.
The same can be said of the mass shootings later in 2015 at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that killed 10 people and the San Bernardino shootings that killed 16 people. McConnell was sympathetic to the victims and their families, but he was quick to criticize President Barack Obama. solutions proposed in early 2016 as partisan.
“Following the president’s vow to ‘politicize’ the shootings, it’s hard to see today’s announcement as anything other than politics,” McConnell said.
In the days following the Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 people at a concert, McConnell told reporters it was “inappropriate to politicize an event like this.”
“The investigation is not even complete, and I think it is premature to discuss legislative solutions if there are any,” he said.
Yet after 17 people at a high school were murdered in Parkland, Florida, McConnell was instrumental in passing a reforming law: the so-called Fix NICS Act, which helped ensure that criminal record information was entered into the Instant National Criminal Background Check. (NICS) by state and federal authorities. McConnell also oversaw the passage of a STOP School Violence Act, which provided funding to help prepare for and prevent gun violence in schools.
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But those reforms fell far short of the sweeping changes most supporters believe are necessary to actually reduce gun violence. And more often than not, McConnell’s willingness to engage on issues that might regulate or augment current gun laws has been fleeting.
Of course, McConnell doesn’t always defer to a bipartisan solution that doesn’t exist.
After the shock Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, McConnell told reporters days later that all of Congress was “united in condemning the violence in Newtown and on the need to enforce our laws. As we continue to learn the facts, Congress will consider whether there is an appropriate, constitutional response that would better protect our citizens.”
But in a January interview on ABC, McConnell made it clear his focus lay elsewhere when host George Stephanopolous asked if Republicans would be open to suggestions from a new vice-led gun violence task force. -President at the time, Joe Biden.
“Well, first we have to focus on Joe Biden’s group, and what are they going to recommend?” McConnell said. “And after that, we will decide, if anything, what to do in this area.”
“But the biggest problem we have right now is spending and debt,” he continued. “It’s going to dominate Congress by the end of March. I don’t think any of these issues will have the kind of priority that spending and debt will have over the next two or three months.
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