Last week, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was one of several GOP senators to introduce the RESPONSE Act, a bill aimed at reducing mass violence.
The bill has some attributes that could be very helpful in stopping mass shootings before they happen, such as allowing internet service providers and platforms to share troubling or incriminating information with authorities and more resources to further crack down on illegal firearms dealers. It’s also laden with proposals to increase resources for and access to mental health treatment on a variety of fronts, while also assisting schools in adopting or enforcing internet safety policies aimed at finding children who might be in danger of harming themselves or others.
Some aspects of the bill are, at the very least, confusing, such as a section that would limit the federal appeals process in order to expedite death sentences for suspects convicted of more than one murder in a terrorism case. It’s unclear if this is supposed to be a deterrent for such crimes or a means of swifter vengeance, but it seems out of place.
The bill also would give greater access to active-shooter training in schools, which appears to be a good thing, until remembering the goal should be to eliminate school shootings so that America’s children don’t have to worry about such a terrible tragedy occurring. Unfortunately, this shows just how much mass shootings have been rationalized and normalized as something that happens form time to time, like a tornado or a flood.
The biggest problem is that nowhere is there any mention of reducing the number of weapons and maximum-casualty modifications would-be shooters are able to obtain. The portion of the bill on illegal firearms dealing concerns those selling without a license, or prosecuting those who lie on a background check (things that sometimes aren’t caught until after a tragedy has occurred).
True, the U.S. House has passed its own bills that would expand background checks (extremely popular among the American public), and lengthen the waiting period for those background checks from three days to 10. These bills were passed back in February, well before several mass shootings occurred within a few days of each other over the summer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has essentially shelved them.
The latest proposal from the Senate includes several good things, but no attempt to reduce deaths from mass shootings or other acts of domestic terrorism will be effective without legislation directly affecting firearm accessibility. A majority of Americans actually want to see these pass, but McConnell and other powerful lawmakers don’t — maybe because they are politically beholden to the NRA.
If the country’s elected leaders aren’t willing to talk about the AR-15-wielding elephant in the room, everything else is essentially putting new shutters on a condemned house.