Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal was making a stump speech for a universal background check bill on the floor of the U.S. Senate this morning when word broke of the school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. Without missing a beat, Murphy quickly used the news of the unfolding tragedy to try to shame lawmakers into action.
While debating gun control legislation on the Senate floor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal learns of the reported shooting in California.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 14, 2019
“As I speak on the floor right now,” the Senator proclaimed, “there is a school shooting in Santa Clarita, California. How can we turn the other way? How can we refuse to see that shooting in real time, demanding our attention, requiring our action? We are complicit if we fail to act. It is not just a political responsibility, it is a moral imperative.”
I think it’s a moral imperative for politicians like Blumenthal to not try to exploit tragedy for their own political purposes. Blumenthal’s universal background check bill wouldn’t have stopped this attack in Santa Clarita. The suspect is 15-years old, for one thing. However he obtained the gun used in the shooting, he didn’t go through a background check to get it. California also already has a universal background check law in place for both firearms and ammunition, as well as a ten-day waiting period for every firearm purchase. Neither of those laws prevented this tragedy, nor did any of the dozens of other gun control laws on the books in California, including a 2017 law that revoked the ability of local school districts to allow school employees to be armed on campus.
Senator Blumenthal knew nothing about the shooting in Santa Clarita today when he decided to incorporate the breaking news into his anti-gun stump speech. All he knew is that there was a shooting in a school, and he could paint opponents of his background check bill as cold and uncaring for not acting to approve the legislation while children were being shot.
Personally, I think its grotesque for Senator Blumenthal to try to exploit the shooting in Santa Clarita for his own political agenda, but that’s what anti-gun activists are supposed to do, according to the gun control playbook called Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging, which encourages activists to respond to a “high profile gun violence incident” by speaking out before any facts are known (page 41):
Experience tells us that the specific facts of a high-profile gun incident are revealed over time. If we jump to conclusions about those details, we could find ourselves at odds with reality as events unfold. So, the smartest thing to do is avoid linking our message and arguments to any one set of partially-revealed facts. We shouldn’t assume the facts. But, we also shouldn’t argue ourselves into inaction while we await clarity about details. The clearest course is to advance our core message about preventing gun violence independent of facts that may shift on us over time. (“While we don’t know the specifics of this tragedy, we know far too many people are killed by weak gun laws in this country.”)
Blumenthal didn’t even bother to keep it vague. He flat-out told his colleagues that they are complicit in this crime in Santa Clarita by not passing a background check bill that wouldn’t have stopped the attack had it been law in the first place. It’s disgusting, but par for the course for too many gun control advocates.
There is a time and a place to talk about today’s shooting in relation to our nation’s gun laws, but in order to do that, you need to know a few simple yet salient facts like how the suspect obtained his weapon and whether or not there were any warning signs. Blumenthal didn’t care to wait. He jumped on this story without knowing any details or whether or not his proposed legislation would have made a difference, because he wanted to use these injured students for his own political purposes. He isn’t the first to do so, and Lord knows he won’t be the last, but his despicable display on the floor of the U.S. Senate should still be called out for what it is.