Reporter Editorial: Guns, money, shame

PETER WALDNER ILLUSTRATION

PETER WALDNER ILLUSTRATION

Earlier this week we asked Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) a simple question: “What is your position on banning semi-automatic, military-style weapons such as the AR-15?”

Mr. Zeldin’s response wasn’t simple, and he didn’t answer the question: “I support law-abiding citizens having the ability to possess firearms to protect themselves, their families, their loved ones and property. However, we must ensure lunatics manifesting violent, criminal intentions with firearms have access to none.”

Mr. Zeldin is in lockstep with his party in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida high school massacre, parading under the banner that reads: “We’re actually doing something! See? Background checks!”

The marching order that came down from Republican officials is that the sale of a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, used by soldiers in combat — oh, and also for “sportsmen,” getting thrills blasting away at a shooting range — is not a problem. The problem is these weapons get into the wrong hands.

Talk about lunatic.

A sane society would immediately ban assault weapons and institute a buy-back program to get many of them out of circulation.

Stephen Paddock, who holed up in a hotel room in Las Vegas last October and committed the worst mass murder in American history, bought his 47 guns legally, and no background check would have turned up anything on that sportsman.

But that’s really beside the point when it comes to most Republicans, including Mr. Zeldin.

What is being done now is damage control, to use a phrase that weighs especially heavily after a school — a school — became a charnel house.

Especially shameful is President Trump, loudly making a case that the Valentine’s Day mass murder was the FBI’s fault, that the agency has spent too much time investigating him rather than figuring out that the gunman should have been banned from buying his weapon.

Even with blood staining schoolroom floors and young bodies being carried out, it really is all about the president and his problems, isn’t it?

The National Rifle Association and groups it’s affiliated with spent more than $50 million in political ads in 2016 — almost all supporting the GOP — and $34.5 million targeting Democrats with negative ads.

Close to $10,000 of that NRA money went to Mr. Zeldin; he’s cashed almost $15,000 from the gun lobby since he first ran for Congress. He’s received an “A” from the NRA, with a 93 percent approval rating from the group, while scoring a 0 percent rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Even a high school kid can see that other countries have the same rates of mental illness but a minuscule number of mass shootings compared to the U.S. And some high school kids, led by the survivors of the Parkland massacre, are not only seeing it, but are taking action.

Who knows, Mr. Zeldin and other GOP gun lobby appeasers might even listen to what the young people have to say. If they don’t, they should hear it from voters on Election Day in November.

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