Armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. The assault was one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, and has renewed calls for stricter gun control legislation, more thorough background checks, and renewed scrutiny for politicians like Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) who support access to guns.
Since 2008, Paulsen has received over $20,000 in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association, and every time a major piece of gun legislation has crossed his desk, he’s voted to loosen gun restrictions.
In 2011, for instance, Paulsen voted to allow someone with a concealed-carry permit in one state to legally carry a firearm in other states. In 2017, he voted for a revised and updated version of the same bill. Neither passed.
Perhaps the most controversial piece of legislation under review is last year’s rollback of an Obama-era regulation that added some people with mental health issues to the FBI’s background check database. Paulsen voted in favor of repealing the regulation and President Trump signed the rollback into law shortly thereafter. On Friday, President Trump － without any apparent sense of irony － met with some of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman massacre and vowed to tackle “the difficult issue of mental health.”
Overall, Paulsen has voted to block gun safety legislation 13 times, and was given the lowest possible rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2015-2016 for his refusal to support expanding background checks.
The latest school shooting is unlikely to elicit much, if any, response in Congress. After 58 people were killed and 851 were injured during the Las Vegas massacre in October, even Republican members of Congress publicly mulled the possibility of banning bump stocks, the device that allowed the shooter to effectively turn his semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon. But legislation banning bump stocks stalled in Congress, and is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House and Senate in an election year.
And it’s hard to imagine a group of more sympathetic victims than elementary school children like the 20 who were killed, along with six teachers, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. But not even the deaths of those children led to the passage of any new national gun control legislation.
In other words, the tragedy at Parkland is just the latest mass shooting, not the last. Nothing, it seems, will move Rep. Paulsen and his Republican colleagues to action. Our only option is to elect new leaders who will protect us, our children, and our communities this November.
Image via YouTube.