Romney: Congress has to take action on mass shootings

Perhaps, but what kind of action? Mitt Romney’s comments to the Salt Lake Tribune got picked up by The Hill and others in a generic manner, making it sound as though Romney might have made a major break with the Republican Party on gun control. Instead, Romney offered the same kinds of solutions that the GOP has tried to push through Congress after other mass-shooting incidents, including expanded federal background checks:

Romney lingered longer on one issue: school shootings. He was originally scheduled to announce his bid Thursday but pushed it back “out of respect for the victims and their families” after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school.

He encouraged states to consider solutions like building security, police patrols and intervention teams. He also said he would back a measure to bolster the federal database for firearms background checks.

“I think we can’t just sit and wait and hope for things to get better,” he said. “It is wrong and unacceptable for children in our schools to fear for their lives.”

None of these are new ideas, but most of them got scuttled by Democrats after earlier tragedies led them to push for outright gun control. Marco Rubio took to Twitter this morning to remind the media that the GOP has tried to address some of the issues that routinely arise after mass shootings, especially on mental health:

Republicans killed the background check push the last time it came up, but that was in part because Democratic leadership made it clear that they would use it as a platform for broader gun-control legislation. This is a continuing problem when it comes to working on the relevant issues in these mass shootings. Even on a common-sense compromise like a ban on bump stocks after the Las Vegas massacre, correcting an ATF decision that should never have been made in the first place, Nancy Pelosi bragged that she would use it as leverage to institute bans on entire classes of legal firearms. It killed the momentum for the bill, even though the NRA endorsed it. Congress ended up referring it back to the ATF.

The NRA has advanced cautious encouragement on improving background checks when the issue doesn’t get used to push broader gun control. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey tried taking it up in 2015, but distrust of the Obama administration ran too high at the time.  With an NRA-endorsed president in the White House, there may be more room to negotiate what Romney suggests here — a “bolstering” of the federal background check system, likely to capture more mental-health issues or previous law-enforcement contacts. Donald Trump himself suggested that he would be open to that conversation, a suggestion which may have gone farther than Romney went here.

If Republicans do manage to pass a bill with some common-sense answers to mass shootings, they will at least have done better than Democrats in doing something. And if Democrats obstruct such a bill, the media will have no excuse in passing it off as a Republican issue.

Meanwhile, we should wait to craft such bills to find out whether we’re addressing the real problems. For instance, we’re still discovering the issues surrounding the November mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a failure to follow up on a sexual assault case left the shooter free to conduct his murderous rampage:

Sheriff’s deputies didn’t pursue a sexual assault investigation against the gunman in a mass shooting at a Texas church, even though the woman reporting it signed a complaint detailing the alleged attack, according to records released Friday.

The records also contradict the reason previously given for why the case stalled against Devin Patrick Kelley, four years before the November 2017 massacre at a tiny church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Had Kelley been prosecuted for sexual assault, a conviction could have stopped a trail of violent allegations that culminated in the shooting.

The Pentagon has gotten a lot of criticism, justifiably so, for not transmitting Kelley’s record of crime to the federal background check database. But as it turns out, the sheriff’s department didn’t have a database tracking suspects in sexual assault cases, so when Kelley later got busted for domestic violence, they never found out that he was wanted for questioning in the earlier case. Just as it appears in the Parkland shooting, law enforcement had plenty of opportunities to stop the perp before he began his massacre. We should start our efforts by plugging those holes rather than broadly infringing on the rights of millions of law-abiding, responsible firearms owners.