One of the most depressing aspects of the recent spate of mass shootings in America, second only to the loss of so many innocent lives, is the feeling that basically nothing is going to change. Despite Mitch McConnell’s claim that he’d tasked Texas senator John Cornyn with working with Democrats to come up with a bipartisan solution to the epidemic of gun violence, Cornyn tweeted last Wednesday that there was absolutely no truth to the rumor that he was going to make gun laws more restrictive. Cornyn, of course, is far from the only Republican who refuses to do anything about the fact that mass killings are a near-daily feature of life in this country, where the GOP will try to blame gun deaths on literally anything but guns. And according to a hugely disturbing number of Republican voters, that’s just something we’ve all got to accept.
Insider reports that a new poll by CBS News and YouGov shows that 44% of Republicans believe mass shootings are “something we have to accept as part of a free society.” (A majority of Democrats and Independents—85% and 73%, respectively—think these events are preventable “if we really tried.”) The poll also asked respondents if they think Congress is unlikely to “pass any laws in the next few months that will make significant changes to gun policy,” to which 66% of Democrats, 72% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans said it is “not very likely” or “not at all likely.”
As The New York Times pointed out on Monday, one of the reasons those people are probably right—in addition to the fact that Republicans have long blocked gun control legislation—is that Cornyn is one of the people leading the talks. The Texas senator, who has a top rating from the NRA, recently rejected Joe Biden’s call for renewing the federal ban on assault weapons—the expiration of which arguably led to a threefold increase in mass shootings—raising the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21, and limiting high-capacity magazines. (A bid to pass a package that would include enhanced background checks, red flag laws, and new mental health programs is supposedly on the table, though, again, many are suspect of Cornyn.) “It has to be incremental,” the Texas lawmaker told The Times, which noted that people who have worked with him have dubbed his maneuvers the “Cornyn con,” in which he acts like he’s interested in serious policy negotiations but pulls out in the end and then blames the Democrats. “The silver hair, the silver tongue, the moderate tone project seriousness; but his pattern is to be cynical and unserious,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice, told the paper. “He pretends he wants progress even as he undermines it.” Late last month, Republicans blocked a bill combating domestic terrorism, which Cornyn told The Washington Post “just doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” The May 14 Buffalo shooting was carried out by a white supremacist who targeted Black people. So you can probably understand why there’s a healthy amount of skepticism for Cornyn and co.
Of course, as other wealthy countries have shown, mass shootings are not something we just have to roll over and “accept.” As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote just after Uvalde, Australia, Britain, and Canada all enacted major gun restrictions in the wake of such horrific occurrences, and their people no longer have to live in a society in which mass shootings occur basically all the time. No, really: It doesn’t have to be this way!
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