Survivor: Next mass shooting is on legislators

The Florida state House rejected a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines as dozens of survivors of last week's school shooting headed to the state Capitol to turn their grief into political action.

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 10:21 AM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 10:21 AM

In America, gun violence has become a reoccurring fact of life, and the response to it is even more predictable.

Following the tragedy last week in Parkland, Florida, the reaction has followed a familiar pattern: a slew of well-meaning tweets and condolences followed by victim outrage and action. But after Congress did nothing in the wake of Newtown, after Las Vegas or after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, it's unclear if there is any political will to take action after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"What we need is congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate," Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida, said on ABC's "This Week." "There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws, new laws, stronger laws that protect rights for responsible citizens, people who are responsible gun owners, but will prevent those who want to do harm to innocent people from obtaining these weapons."

In recent days, the window for opportunity has opened by a crack. President Donald Trump -- who campaigned as an ally of the National Rifle Association -- has signaled a willingness to re-examine some of the country's gun laws. But the contours of any action will be narrow, and if past incidences are any indication, there's little time to act. Capitol Hill Republicans facing a tough midterm political environment may be reluctant to take action on a controversial issue unless the President uses his bully pulpit to sell a narrow change to the American public.

Leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer also has issued a statement calling on Trump to go further than he has indicated he will go. In a call with reporters, Schumer also said his number one priority was going to be improving background checks.

"In terms of getting something real done, the universal background check is sort of at the nexus of a chance of actually becoming law, particularly if the president would support it, and at the same time doing a whole lot of good in preventing people, felons, those who are adjudicated mentally ill, from getting guns," Schumer said.

On Friday, Trump spoke with Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about legislation the senator has already introduced that would further compel state and federal agencies to enter information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that could halt dangerous individuals from buying guns. Cornyn sponsored the legislation last year with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who's a leader on the gun issue. Murphy's state was devastated by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, which left 26 dead -- 20 of them young children.

RELATED: Here's what the Senate gun bill says

The legislation has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee ,where it hasn't been taken up for a vote. In the House, a similar piece of legislation to fix NICS passed in December, but only when it was paired with a measure to loosen gun restrictions that allowed holders of concealed carry permits to legally travel with their weapons out of state.

That proposal, which appears to currently have the best chance in clearing Congress, stops far short of efforts just five years ago to dramatically overhaul the country's gun laws. Democrats argue those efforts are the bare minimum.

"The legislation that the President has tentatively endorsed barely scratches the surface of our gun problem. The (Cornyn's background check) bill won't come close to making a significant dent in the problem, and must be only the beginning of a legislative remedy that at a minimum fully strengthens and funds background checks, closes loopholes, and keeps guns away from those who shouldn't have them," Schumer said in a statement Wednesday morning.

In 2013, the Senate voted on a package of gun laws that would have expanded background checks and banned the specific kinds of semiautomatic weapons that have been used in many of the mass shootings in recent years. Those efforts failed even with a Democratic majority in the Senate, even with Democratic President Barack Obama's full support and even with the parents of Sandy Hook victims lobbying congressional offices for weeks ahead of the vote.

A different time?

This time the conversation about guns in America is happening in large part because survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are demanding it, but whether changes will be made to national gun laws is still very uncertain.

"Maybe the adults have got used to saying, 'It is what it is,' " said Emma Gonzalez, a student at the high school. "But if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead."

On Wednesday, Trump is expected to hold a listening session with students and teachers. But the impact of those conversations and the longevity of the national debate are uncertain. Touching gun legislation can be contentious and if the President wants changes, he will have to consistently throw his political weight behind them no matter the pressure ahead.

Sources inside the White House have been clear that Trump is feeling the pressure. The President spent the weekend at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, watching critical coverage and hearing from guests who felt strongly about the gun issue. CNN reported Monday that one such conversation happened over dinner with frequent Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera, who argued to Trump that it might be worth raising the legal age to purchase guns like the AR-15 from 18 to 21. Trump also met with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Florida, where they discussed the Parkland shooting.

But it's uncertain how much appetite there is on Capitol Hill. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, has been clear that finding a solution that would prevent gun violence is complicated.

"If we do something, it should be something that works. And the struggle up to this point has been that most of the proposals that have been offered would not have prevented, not just yesterday's tragedy, but any of those in recent history," Rubio said last week.

He added that "just because these proposals would not have prevented these does not mean that we therefore raise our hands and say, 'Therefore, there's nothing we can do.' "

During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" over the weekend, Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, stuck with the notion that guns weren't the problem as much as who is able to get a gun.

"The problem is not owning an AR-15, is the person that owns it. Again, you not go back to the how of what particular weapon is chosen, it's the why," Lankford said. "I have individuals in my neighborhood that own an AR-15. That doesn't make it a dangerous neighborhood or them dangerous individuals. It's the individual themself (that becomes) the issue, not the weapon that they're holding."

A Las Vegas shooting and a short-lived gun debate

In instance after instance, Congress has shown little appetite to tackle gun legislation. Even in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern American history at a concert in Las Vegas last fall, where 58 were killed and almost 500 were injured, a similar national conversation emerged and then quickly faded.

The range of those talks was also narrow. There was little discussion about banning semiautomatic weapons like the ones Stephen Paddock used from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay hotel room. Instead, there was a more nuanced discussion about banning a device few had even heard of before the Las Vegas rampage: bump fire stocks, also known as bump stocks, a small attachment that when placed on a semiautomatic weapon allows the gun to fire more like an automatic weapon -- extracting even more carnage.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were surprised, stunned that such a device existed. Automatic weapons are banned. How could a device exist that allowed semiautomatic weapons to fire more like illegal guns?

Conservatives like Cornyn recommended that the Senate's Judiciary Committee hold hearings on bump stocks. Some Republicans even called to ban them. But in the end and after a hearing, lawmakers backed off such a legislative push and concluded the change should be handled administratively at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF -- months after the Las Vegas shooting -- reviewed whether it has such authority, and the White House indicated Tuesday that that review had been completed and its results would be announced in upcoming days.

On Tuesday Trump said he'd directed the Department of Justice to review the use of bump stocks and "propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns."

"Just a few moments ago I signed a memo directing the attorney general to propose regulations that ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns," Trump said at a Medal of Valor event at the White House.

Democrats have argued Trump will need to endorse legislative action if he really wants to see a change.

"There are serious problems with the President's approach. First, his own ATF agency has warned that it does not have the authority to ban bump stocks. The only way to close this loophole permanently is legislation," Schumer said in his statement. "He should call on Congress to pass Senator Feinstein's bill to ban bump stocks, rather than just draft memos. On far too many issues, this administration has been all talk and little action -- we can't afford that approach when it comes to curbing gun violence."

This story has been updated to include comment from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
Adams295235
Whitley294125
Wabash293045
Ripley292345
Putnam284847
Huntington283557
Jasper282433
White267538
Daviess261672
Jefferson250738
Fayette242348
Decatur242182
Greene233360
Posey232326
Wells229447
LaGrange224161
Clay217932
Scott216937
Randolph208340
Jennings192535
Sullivan189031
Spencer181917
Fountain179725
Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
Owen159537
Fulton159229
Carroll152115
Orange151433
Rush149918
Perry147227
Vermillion144933
Franklin143433
Parke12908
Tipton128232
Pike113625
Blackford107522
Pulaski95237
Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 20°
Huntington
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 18°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 20°
Lima
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 19°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events