What a relief. After the shocking death toll in Orlando, we don't have to worry about mass shootings, any more. Speaker Paul Ryan has fixed that problem: He led the House of Representatives in a moment of silence in memory of the 49 victims killed in last weekend's slaughter.
For Ryan and House Republicans, that's all the carnage in Orlando – the worst mass shooting in American history – deserved: a quick moment of silence, and then it was on to more important issues, like cutting food stamps. Their cavalier attitude toward one mass murder after another is enough to make you want to puncture that moment of silence with screams of outrage.
Which is what House Democrats did this week. After respectfully observing the silent tribute, they filled the chamber with chants of "Where's the bill? Where's the bill?" But, of course, despite filibuster efforts by Democratic senators, led by Chris Murphy of Connecticut, it appears that no legislation will be forthcoming after the gun violence in Orlando, no more than there was after Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado, Charleston, South Carolina, or San Bernardino, California.
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Within hours after the tragedy, President Obama described the actions of the Florida killer as an "act of hate" and an "act of terror," this time directed at the LGBT community. But it was something else, too. It was also another act of senseless gun violence, and any efforts to deal with the terrorist aspect of Orlando are meaningless unless they are accompanied by serious action to limit the easy access to firearms. Late-night comedian Seth Meyers put it best: "Because whether the shooter was a homophobe, mentally ill, a terrorist inspired by ISIS or all three, what allowed him to kill so many people on Sunday was his gun."
To put it bluntly, we don't need any typical pap from politicians about "our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families." We don't need any more calls for a "moment of silence." We don't need any more macho rhetoric about "bombing ISIS out of existence." We need strong, common-sense, gun safety legislation to make it tough, if not impossible, for those who should not have a gun to get one – and to take certain guns off the market entirely.
How many more innocent people have to die before we come to our senses about gun control? No other civilized country on the planet puts up with this madness. As the New York Times reports, in England one person per million is shot to death every year – as infrequently as an American dies by falling from a ladder. In Japan, gun homicides affect only one person in 10 million – as rare as an American's chance of being hit by lightning. Yet the annual death rate from gun violence in the United States is 31 per million people – the equivalent of 27 people shot dead every day of the year.
As President Obama frequently reminds us, no one measure would end all gun violence, but there are at least three ways to make it a less frequent occurrence, starting with the so-called "no fly, no buy" legislation. There is simply no reason that a person banned by the FBI from buying an airline ticket because he's a terrorist suspect should be able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun. It defies all logic. Yet, according to the latest report of the Government Accountability Office, nine out of 10 people on the terrorist watch list who tried to buy a gun were successful.
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In every recent national poll, 90 percent of Americans also support background checks for all gun purchases: not only at gun stores, but at gun shows, online, or over the back fence. That's not as good as registering all guns and requiring a license to use them, but it's a good start. And, of course, it's imperative to renew the ban on the sale of assault weapons, which expired in 2004 and Congress has not renewed since. Nobody outside of the military or law enforcement should be able to get their hands on them.
Not one of those three measures would undermine the Second Amendment. But they would make all Americans safer. Even the American Medical Association, which usually stays out of politics, this week called gun violence "a public health crisis." It's time Republicans in Congress stopped listening to the NRA – and started listening to the doctors.