Fire and rescue personnel gather after a mass shooting at a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty/Ethan Miller)

Democrats: It's "time for action" to prevent future mass shootings

Democrats aren't just giving Americans their thoughts and prayers. They want results


Sophia Tesfaye
October 2, 2017 6:18PM (UTC)

Stammering through his shock, Eric Paddock — brother to Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old man who shot dead at least 58 Las Vegas concertgoers and injured more than 500 others — directed pressing reporters to “find out who sold him the machine gun.”

If initial reports prove true, Sunday night’s mass shooting at a country music festival is only the third to be carried out using a fully automatic weapon since 1943. From the 32nd floor, Paddock fired off multiple rounds with each pull of the trigger, leaving thousands of people with no reprieve but to run.  

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As it became evident that the Las Vegas concert attack is now the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — surpassing a record set only 16 months ago — the usual politically empty platitudes and calls for prayers were swiftly met with direct calls for action.

"Now is not a moment for silence; it's a time for action," Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton tweeted Monday morning.

According to MassShootingTracker.org, there have been 273 mass shooting incidents in 2017. Sunday was only the 274th day of the year. At least 1,715 people have been killed in mass shootings since a gunman mowed down 20 students and 6 teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, almost five years ago.

But as the House of Representatives has been controlled by Republicans since that horrific massacre, not one gun control measure has been passed into law. Instead, House Republicans plan to vote on two measures that would actually ease gun restrictions this week.

So, speeding up a stale cycle we've seen repeated after nearly every recent mass shooting, Democrats have already jumped into the political fray to blast both Republican inaction in the face of such loss of life and the outsize influence on policy by the National Rifle Association.

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"It has been barely a year since what was previously the largest mass shooting in American history — the deadly attack at Pulse nightclub. In the interim, thousands more have been lost to the daily, ruthless toll of gun violence," Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement Monday. "Still, Congress refuses to act. I am more than frustrated, I am furious."

His colleague from Connecticut, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, a major proponent of stricter gun laws, accused the Republican-controlled Congress of sitting “on its ass” as people die.

"This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren't public policy responses to this epidemic," Murphy said on Monday. "There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It's time for Congress to get off its ass and do something."

At some point, we will have to do the real work of interrogating this nation’s relationship with violence. But for now, Democrats appear willing enough not to waste another tragedy on just thoughts and prayers.

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The hashtag #GunControlNow spiked at No. 2 in the United States on Twitter, as high-profile Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., spoke out forcefully against the gun lobby only hours after the shooting.

It’s not yet clear how the shooter acquired his guns or which gun control measures could have prevented him from obtaining them, but we do know that Republicans blocked the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which sought to permanently ban the production or importation of certain semiautomatic firearms, as well as high-capacity magazines. Now Republicans are seeking to loosen existing gun restrictions. One bill set to come up for a vote in the House would make concealed carry permits valid across state lines, even in states that have chosen to enact stricter gun laws. Another bill would make it easier for people to buy silencers.

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Americans own as much as 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, despite making up less than 5 percent of the world’s population. As CNBC reported that shares of gun stocks rose Monday following the shooting, it’s foolish to think that a Republican-controlled federal government would suddenly implement any major gun reforms. But a big difference this time is that Democrats are fighting back.

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A July poll from Quinnipiac University found that a majority of Americans in every age group support stricter gun laws. There are no signs that Republican opposition to gun control will begin to soften, even after an attack that targeted fans of country music, but Democrats have no choice but to go political if this nation will ever see any shift in the partisanship of gun control. 

The NRA spent more than $30 million to put Donald Trump in the White House. But their latest ad buy on behalf of the Republican running in Virginia’s race for the governorship -- set to begin Tuesday -- was postponed after Monday’s shooting. The Democrat in the race was also forced to cancel his own campaign event. Former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shot in the head during another deadly mass shooting in 2011, was set to campaign on behalf of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday. Giffords and her husband were planning to praise Northam for supporting "responsible gun violence prevention policies."


Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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