Democratic, Republican Responses to Parkland School Shooting Vary Wildly

‘Part of it is a love affair with guns,’ New York Republican Peter King says

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., criticized his GOP colleagues for their response to the Parkland shooting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., criticized his GOP colleagues for their response to the Parkland shooting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 16, 2018 at 10:06am

As Democrats renewed calls this week for broader background checks and an end to military-grade weapons access, at least a handful of GOP congressmen agreed.

They remained cynical, though, that any substantive measures would pass into law.

“The reality is I’ve been here through all of these and there’s never been any change whatsoever,” GOP Rep. Peter King of New York told the New York Daily News.

“We’re not asking for much, but part of it is a love affair with guns,” he said, “almost a religious fervor.”

A former student at a Parkland, Florida, high school killed 17 people Wednesday when he opened fire at the school. President Donald Trump said there were “so many signs” that Nikolas Cruz, 19, was “mentally disturbed.”

After each mass shooting, Democrats and a small cadre of their Republican colleagues seize on the event while it is fresh in the public’s mind to put pressure on lawmakers to enact gun control legislation. Most GOP lawmakers, however, say the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the time to politicize the event.

“It’s just a horrific, horrific, horrible shooting,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin told a local radio station Thursday. “I think we need to pray, and our hearts go out to these victims. And I think, as public policy makers, we don’t just knee-jerk before we even have all the facts and the data.”

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut took up the opposite stance.

“Don’t tell me tomorrow isn’t the appropriate time to debate gun violence,” Murphy tweeted Wednesday after the shooting. “If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter, you’re an accomplice.”

A month after a gunman in Las Vegas killed 58 people on Oct. 1 last year, Democratic Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada expressed frustration with Republican attempts to dodge legislative proposals on bump stocks, the device the shooter there used to increase the rate of fire of his semiautomatic rifles.

“It’s just like after Sandy Hook, just like after Orlando,” Titus said. “A lot of talk. And then [Republicans] think they can wait us out. The news cycle will change, people will forget, and we’ll move on. We just can’t let that happen.”

But the Republican message remains that nothing will stop a mentally sick person from obtaining a firearm to do harm to others if that person has made up their mind.

“I’m trying to be clear and honest here: If someone’s decided, ‘I’m going to commit this crime,’ they will find a way to get the gun to do it,” GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said on the Senate floor Thursday. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a law to make it harder; it just means understand, to be honest, it isn’t going to stop this from happening.”

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