After years of standing in the way of any legislation that might really do something to prevent mass shootings, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a lament in the wake of the killing of seven people and wounding of dozens more in Highland Park, Illinois. “We have got to figure out some way to identify these troubled young men & it's very complicated because after every one of these shootings there are people who say ‘Oh you know I thought he was pretty strange. I wish I notified somebody about it,’” McConnell said.
Funny story: Members of the alleged Highland Park shooter’s family called the police on him twice in 2019 and he still got a gun license in early 2020, and repeatedly passed background checks allowing him to purchase firearms that year. Does that mean Mitch McConnell would support tightening the licensing and background check process to exclude people with the alleged shooter’s record?
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Ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah, right. This is a guy who only in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers even allowed the Senate to close the boyfriend loophole, taking guns away from people with convictions for domestic violence against people they were only dating and not married to, living with, or have a child with. Prior to that, Democrats had tried to close the boyfriend loophole in a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and McConnell and his Senate Republicans blocked the entire bill until that part was removed.
So, no, McConnell is not serious about keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and the fact that after 19 children were slaughtered he relented and allowed a law to pass blocking people with domestic violence convictions from having guns does not signal some kind of change of heart. It signals how extreme he is and how much pressure it takes to get him to shift even a little bit to allow the most obvious policy.
McConnell’s entire career is about backing the gun ownership rights of people like Robert E. Crimo III, right up until he piously says it’s just too bad there wasn’t a way to keep them from killing seven people.
In September 2019, a relative of Crimo’s contacted the police because the then-19-year-old had a collection of knives and “said he was going to kill everyone,” according to a police spokesman. Police took the knives, then returned them the same day because his father said the knives belonged to him and were just being stored in his son’s closet. I’m just going to float the thought that perhaps knives also shouldn’t be returned to someone with the poor judgment to store them in the closet of a disturbed teenager making death threats.
Earlier in 2019, police were called to the Crimo residence because of an alleged suicide attempt by the younger Crimo—another reason his father’s judgment might be called into question on those knives. But that’s nothing compared to the fact that after the visit in which the knives were confiscated because the son was saying “he was going to kill everyone,” the father helped him get a license to buy guns. At 19, he needed a family member to sponsor him, and his father did so.
This is how our nation’s latest mass shooter got his weapons: legally, because law enforcement didn’t have a reason to block him despite multiple calls about him intending to harm himself or others. He told us he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, the police say in defense of the decision. Okay, guys. But those are the laws. And those are the laws directly because of Mitch McConnell.
If anyone suggests to you that this shows that gun laws are not the answer because these guns were obtained legally, please point out that this shows that much, much stronger gun laws are needed. Here’s a thought: What if the presumption wasn’t that of course you can have high-powered rifles unless you have been extensively caught up in the criminal justice system? What if the presumption was that you had to show you would be a responsible gun owner, had to get trained, and still probably couldn’t have the kind of gun designed for mowing down dozens of people within moments?
“We have got to figure out some way to identify these troubled young men,” says McConnell, as he defends a system in which two calls to the police about a troubled young man threatening harm are not enough to keep him from legally acquiring guns months later. There’s a clue here! But of course McConnell doesn’t actually care. He’s just saying what he has to say to keep pressure from building up for Congress to take more serious action on guns.
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