Put yourselves in shoes of these parents for once, senator urges after shooting

25 May 2022, 17:14

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer
Election 2022 Congress. Picture: PA

Chuck Schumer implored his Republican colleagues to cast aside the powerful gun lobby.

US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has swiftly set in motion a pair of firearms background-check bills in response to the school massacre in Texas.

But the Democrat acknowledged Congress’ unyielding rejection of previous legislation to curb the national epidemic of gun violence.

Mr Schumer implored his Republican colleagues to cast aside the powerful gun lobby and reach across the aisle for even a modest compromise bill. But no votes are being scheduled.

“Please, please, please damnit – put yourselves in the shoes of these parents just for once,” Mr Schumer said as he opened the Senate.

He threw up his hands at the idea of what might seem an inevitable outcome: “If the slaughter of schoolchildren can’t convince Republicans to buck the NRA, what can we do?”

The killing of at least 19 children at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has laid bare the political reality that the US Congress has proven unwilling or unable to pass substantial federal legislation to curb gun violence in America.

Congress failed to approve a firearms background check bill after 20 children were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost a decade ago, and that signalled the beginning of the end of federal gun violence legislation.

Despite the outpouring of grief on Wednesday after the starkly similar Texas massacre, it is not at all clear there will be any different outcome.

“We are accepting this as the new normal,” said senator Chris Murphy.” “It’s our choice.”

While President Joe Biden said “we have to act,” substantial gun violence legislation has been blocked by Republicans, often with a handful of conservative Democrats.

Despite mounting mass shootings in communities nationwide – two in the past two weeks alone, including Tuesday in Texas and the racist killing of black shoppers at a store in Buffalo, New York, 10 days earlier – politicians have been unwilling to set aside their differences.

Even the targeting of their own failed to move Congress to act. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a Saturday morning event outside a Tucson grocery store, and several Republican politicians on a congressional baseball team were shot during morning practice.

“The conclusion is the same,” said senator Cory Booker. “I’m not seeing any of my Republican colleagues come forward right now and say, ‘Here’s a plan to stop the carnage’. So this is just normal now, which is ridiculous.”

Pleading with his colleagues for a compromise, Mr Murphy said he was reaching out to the two Texas Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and had called fellow Democratic senator Joe Manchin who authored the bill that failed after Sandy Hook.

“Every moment is just horrific, but when you have babies, little children, innocent as can be, oh God,” Mr Manchin told reporters on Tuesday as news broke of the Texas shooting, noting he had three school-age grandchildren.

“It just makes no sense at all why we can’t do common sense – common sense things – and try to prevent some of this from happening.”

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, compromise legislation, written by Mr Manchin of West Virginia and Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, was backed by a majority of senators. But it fell to a filibuster – blocked by most Republicans and a handful of Democrats, unable to overcome the 60-vote threshold needed to advance.

The same bill failed again in 2016, after a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

A modest effort to strengthen the federal background check system for gun purchases did make it into law after the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida.

The “Fix NICS” measure, which provided money for states to comply with the existing National Instant Criminal Background Check system and penalise federal agencies that do not, stalled on its own before being tucked into a broader bill needed to keep the government running.

Former president Donald Trump vowed action in 2019, after back-to-back mass shootings rocked the nation when a gunman opened fire at a shopping centre in El Paso and another targeted a popular nightlife spot in Ohio, killing dozens.

In 2018 his administration had banned bump stocks, the attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns and were used during the October 2017 shooting massacre in Las Vegas.

But Mr Trump eventually backed away from the proposals, pressured both times by the National Rifle Association and other groups.

Mr Biden, whose party has slim control of Congress, has failed to push gun violence bills past what is now primarily Republican opposition in the Senate.

Last year, the House passed two bills to expand background checks on firearms purchases. One would have closed a loophole for private and online sales. The other would have extended the background check review period, a response to the church shooting of black people by a white man in South Carolina.

Both languished in the 50-50 Senate where Democrats have a narrow majority because of vice president Kamala Harris’ ability to cast a tie-breaking vote but need at least 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster.

The stalemate has renewed calls to do away with the Senate filibuster rules for legislation, as the Senate has already done for nominations, lowering the threshold to a 51-vote majority for passage.

“Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer is that as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?” Mr Murphy said in a fiery speech as news spread of the Texas massacre.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

President Joe Biden listens as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks

Ketanji Brown Jackson to be sworn in as US Supreme Court justice

An investigator works outside the Bataclan concert hall (Christophe Ena/PA)

Life without parole for surviving extremist who carried out Paris attacks

A shark is seen swimming across a sand bar (Phil Marcelo/AP)

Great white sharks head to Cape Cod as busy tourist season gets under way

Police outside the Bataclan concert hall in Paris (Catherine Wylie/PA)

Men convicted of involvement in 2015 terror attacks in Paris

Salah Abdeslam is believed to be the only surviving member of the group that killed 130 people in the 2015 Paris attacks

Islamic State member found guilty of mass murder for 2015 Paris terror attacks

Vatican Pope Pelosi

Pro-choice Nancy Pelosi receives communion at Vatican despite home city ban

Workers clear debris at the Kremenchuk shopping centre damaged in the Russian rocket attack

Search ongoing for 20 missing after Russian strike on Ukraine shopping centre

People attend a community vigil for the dozens of people found dead in a trailer in San Antonio

‘Difficult process’ identifying Texas lorry trailer death victims – authorities

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

US abortion ruling ‘a setback’ that will cost lives, says WHO chief

Dutch farmers protesting against government plans gather for a demonstration at Stroe

Dutch PM condemns farmers’ protests at minister’s home

Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, is sworn in by committee chairman Bennie Thompson

Trump dismissed January 6 threats and wanted to join crowd, says former aide

India Killing

Hindu tailor killed in cleaver attack amid religious tensions in India

The superyacht Amadea, which was seized by the US from a Russian oligarch

£25bn from Russian oligarchs frozen in multinational seizure effort

Travis Barker is been hospitalised in LA

Travis Barker's family plea for 'prayers' after drummer hospitalised with mystery illness

Airbnb has permanently banned parties at all its properties

Airbnb permanently bans parties at all properties around the world

Capitol Riot Investigation

Trump was told protesters had weapons on January 6, former aide says