Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week after a long summer recess. Members immediately were confronted by the simmering issue of gun violence, brought to a boil again during their break by horrible mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Will this be the time they finally take action? Will they at least try to devise a strategy to cut down on these instances by crafting common-sense legislation?
One thing is for certain, members of Congress know the public widely supports a number of actions — expanded background checks on gun purchases to close loopholes in the system, red-flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed dangerous by the courts, and restrictions of large rounds of ammunition.
Perhaps the most controversial proposal is a ban on assault-style weapons, although surveys indicate most people favor such a ban.
Even without action on an assault-weapons ban, there are steps that can be taken. It’s likely that a majority of Congress would be willing to support some action.
The problem rests with top leadership. President Trump has waffled on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t bring any legislation to a vote in the Senate that he isn’t certain Trump will sign.
Such an intractable position is maddening.
Congress does not have to cede leadership on the issue of gun violence to the president. Trump has shown he does not have the will or the wherewithal to take charge and pose meaningful options.
While the president’s signature on any legislation is required in order for it to become law, the Congress has enormous power to influence that ultimate decision, especially when the vast majority of Americans are behind it.
The American people must keep up the pressure.
When political leaders can’t or won’t take action that the country clearly supports, or even demands, the void must be filled by other elements of society that can muster the courage to act. We’ve seen that in the way some of the nation’s major corporations have responded by banning anyone from openly carrying a gun into their retail outlets.
Among the most prominent of those is Walmart, which experienced the terror of mass violence firsthand when a gunman slaughtered 22 people in its store in El Paso, Texas, targeting Hispanics and citing President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric as his impetus for doing so.
We commend Walmart and other national retailers, including Meijer, Kroger and Aldi, for stepping forward, even though it meant there would be backlash from some of their customers. There comes a point when doing the right thing is more important than protecting the bottom line.
It’s time for members of Congress to show the same courage.
Tribune-Star, Terre Haute