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After yet another mass shooting, some Senate Democrats call for action, but many avoid specifics

  • by FMR
  • 1 month ago
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Joe Zevuloni wipes a tear while visiting a makeshift memorial in Pine Trails Park for the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 16 in Parkland, FL. Seventeen people were killed. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

While Republican lawmakers have faced criticisms for rote offerings of “thoughts and prayers” in response to mass shootings, Democratic lawmakers have begun to adopt something of a boilerplate response of their own to national gun tragedies.

See if you can spot it in the Democratic senators’ statements below.

Here’s Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin:

My heart breaks for the victims of senseless gun violence in Broward County. This is yet another school shooting and another tragedy our nation must confront. https://t.co/YXp4ZIfoK2

— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) February 14, 2018

Here’s Oregon’s Ron Wyden:

I’m devastated by the mass shooting of students in Florida. This senseless violence will repeat itself again and again unless Congress does something about it.

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) February 15, 2018

Spotting the pattern yet? I’ll give you one more: Sen. Christopher A. Coons of Delaware:

Absolutely heartbroken by yet another school shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida.

My thoughts and prayers are with all the students and families there.

We cannot simply stand by and fail to act as this continues to happen in this country.

— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) February 14, 2018

The common thread uniting these sentiments is a call for action: “another tragedy our nation must confront,” “unless Congress does something about it,” “We cannot simply stand by and fail to act.”

What’s missing from these Democratic statements, however, is any mention of which specific actions Congress could take to stem the carnage.

Wonkblog scoured the Twitter feeds and news releases of the 49 senators in the Democratic caucus to see how they publicly responded to this week’s horrific school shooting in Florida (a table tallying what we found is at the bottom of this article).

So far 26 Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New Jersey’s Cory Booker, have cited no specific gun control measures in their public responses to the shooting on Twitter or in news releases. An additional five senators, hailing primarily from red states such as North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp) and Alabama (Doug Jones), haven’t mentioned the shooting so far at all.

That leaves 18 Democratic senators — a minority of the caucus — who have called for specific gun control measures to be enacted in the wake of the shootings, including an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks.

This isn’t to imply that the Democrats who haven’t called for any specific gun control policies aren’t actually in support of any. Universal background checks and restrictions on assault weapons, for instance, are part of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, and most Democratic senators are on the record as supporting at least one of these proposals.

That, however, gets us to the heart of the issue. There’s arguably no better time to make the public case for specific gun control policies than after a mass shooting, when the public is hurting and searching for answers.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s assault weapons ban, introduced last year, is a prime example: Gun violence researchers say it would be one of the most effective ways to curtail high-casualty mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Fla. One researcher has estimated that after Congress allowed the prior assault weapons ban to lapse in 2004, the following decade saw a 183 percent increase in the number of mass shootings involving six or more dead victims.

But roughly half of the Feinstein bill’s 22 original co-sponsors have not been making a public case for it after the Parkland shooting.

It’s not terribly surprising, though, that Democratic lawmakers are concluding that there’s no reason to stick their necks out on policies that have zero chance of passing the current Congress. After all, the primary reason Congress has passed no gun control legislation since 2007 is that Republican lawmakers have been lockstep in their opposition to such measures. During President Barack Obama’s years in office, Senate Republicans successfully blockaded a number of gun control measures backed by Democrats, including modest changes such as universal background checks.

Part of the reason Republicans have presented such a unified front on gun control is that while the measures are widely popular among the public, the intensity of opposition to gun control bills is much greater than the intensity of support for them. Lawmakers tend to hear a lot more from the minority of people who oppose, say, an assault weapons ban than they do from the majority who support it.

On the other hand, one reason gun control supporters aren’t as mobilized on the issue is that Democratic politicians have been wary of making a full-throated case for it. People often calibrate their political views based on what they’re hearing from their political parties. This suggests that one way for Democratic lawmakers to move the needle on gun control would be to simply make a big campaign issue of it.

While Democratic senators can’t change their Republican colleagues’ minds, in other words, they do have the power to influence how their constituents think about gun control. But their largely muted response to the Parkland shooting suggests they remain hesitant to do so.

Senator State Handle Specific gun control policy mentioned? Statement
Amy Klobuchar Minnesota AmyKlobuchar YES https://twitter.com/amyklobuchar/status/964340680721141760
Angus King (I) Maine SenAngusKing NO https://twitter.com/SenAngusKing/status/963908661436387328
Benjamin L. Cardin Maryland BenCardinforMD YES https://twitter.com/BenCardinforMD/status/964319177703084032
Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont SenSanders NO https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/963895154607296512
Bill Nelson Florida SenBillNelson YES https://twitter.com/SenBillNelson/status/964207531877740545
Robert P. Casey Jr. Pennsylvania SenBobCasey YES https://twitter.com/SenBobCasey/status/964152693655818241
Robert Menendez New Jersey SenatorMenendez YES https://twitter.com/SenatorMenendez/status/964536842774302726
Brian E. Schatz Hawaii BrianSchatz YES https://twitter.com/brianschatz/status/964330471441170432
Catherine Cortez Masto Nevada SenCortezMasto NO https://twitter.com/SenCortezMasto/status/964280036110028801
Christopher A. Coons Delaware ChrisCoons NO https://twitter.com/ChrisCoons/status/963899815846469632
Chris Van Hollen Maryland ChrisVanHollen NO https://twitter.com/ChrisVanHollen/status/964184898025254917
Christopher S. Murphy Connecticut ChrisMurphyCT YES https://twitter.com/ChrisMurphyCT/status/964302631534505985
Charles E. Schumer New York SenSchumer NO https://twitter.com/SenSchumer/status/963909919866015745
Claire McCaskill Missouri ClaireCMC YES https://twitter.com/clairecmc/status/964165450908291073
Cory Booker New Jersey CoryBooker NO https://twitter.com/CoryBooker/status/963916306356502528
Debbie Stabenow Michigan SenStabenow YES https://twitter.com/SenStabenow/status/964163938437955585
Dianne Feinstein California SenFeinstein YES https://twitter.com/SenFeinstein/status/963954297846337537
Richard J. Durbin Illinois DickDurbin YES https://twitter.com/DickDurbin/status/964230351500570625
Doug Jones Alabama SenDougJones NO N/A
Edward J. Markey Massachusetts SenMarkey YES https://twitter.com/SenMarkey/status/964163126110380033
Elizabeth Warren Massachusetts SenWarren NO https://twitter.com/SenWarren/status/963922859260305408
Gary Peters Michigan SenGaryPeters NO https://twitter.com/SenGaryPeters/status/963906906963304453
Heidi Heitkamp North Dakota SenatorHeithamp NO N/A
Jack Reed Rhode Island SenJackReed NO https://twitter.com/SenJackReed/status/963890172080377858
Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire SenatorShaheen NO https://twitter.com/SenatorShaheen
Jeff Merkley Oregon JeffMerkley NO https://twitter.com/JeffMerkley/status/964292523509407744
Joe Donnelly Indiana SenDonnelly NO https://twitter.com/SenDonnelly/status/963919296966610944
Joe Manchin III West Virginia Sen_JoeManchin NO N/A
Jon Tester Montana JonTester NO https://twitter.com/SenatorTester/status/963940290670268416
Kamala D. Harris California KamalaHarris NO https://twitter.com/SenKamalaHarris/status/964163118216679427
Kirsten Gillibrand New York SenGillibrand NO https://twitter.com/SenGillibrand/status/963915443554672640
Maggie Hassan New Hampshire SenatorHassan NO https://twitter.com/SenatorHassan/status/964222875141013504
Maria Cantwell Washington SenatorCantwell NO N/A
Mark R. Warner Virginia MarkWarner NO https://twitter.com/MarkWarner/status/963892299355836418
Martin Heinrich New Mexico MartinHeinrich NO https://twitter.com/MartinHeinrich/status/963900447697330177
Mazie K. Hirono Hawaii MazieHirono NO N/A
Michael F. Bennet Colorado SenBennetCO YES https://twitter.com/SenBennetCO/status/964151071416504320
Patrick J. Leahy Vermont SenatorLeahy NO https://twitter.com/SenatorLeahy/status/964197491766890496
Patty Murray Washington PattyMurray YES https://twitter.com/PattyMurray/status/964544918743060480
Richard Blumenthal Connecticut SenBlumenthal YES https://twitter.com/SenBlumenthal/status/964235567339851779
Ron Wyden Oregon RonWyden NO https://twitter.com/RonWyden/status/964112487745454080
Sheldon Whitehouse Rhode Island SenWhitehouse YES https://twitter.com/SenFeinstein/status/963954297846337537
Sherrod Brown Ohio SherrodBrown NO https://twitter.com/SherrodBrown/status/963886564660178950
Tammy Baldwin Wisconsin SenatorBaldwin NO https://twitter.com/SenatorBaldwin/status/963895462133628928
Tammy Duckworth Illinois SenDuckworth NO https://twitter.com/SenDuckworth/status/963907029260742661
Tim Kaine Virginia TimeKaine YES https://twitter.com/MSNBC/status/964205613713633280
Tina Smith Minnesota TinaSmithMN NO https://twitter.com/TinaSmithMN/status/964298221966196742
Thomas R. Carper Delaware SenatorCarper NO https://twitter.com/SenatorCarper/status/963959447323279360
Tom Udall New Mexico SenatorTomUdall YES https://www.tomudall.senate.gov/news/press-releases/udall-statement-on-florida-school-shooting

Source:: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2018/02/16/after-yet-another-mass-shooting-some-senate-democrats-call-for-action-but-many-avoid-specifics/

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