Editorial: Officials must act to curb gun violence

The sound bites on early morning news shows last Sunday seemed odd at first. The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, could be seen speaking, confirming the gruesome details of a deadly shooting that left multiple people dead.

But wasn’t the shooting in El Paso, Texas? Why was Dayton trending on Twitter?

Then reality quickly set in. This is America, where a shooting spree in a Walmart that kills dozens of innocent people can become old news in less than 24 hours as coverage shifts to the next massacre.

The body count continues to climb.

Deadly shooting sprees have become so frequent, so routine, we’ve become almost numb to them. That can’t happen. We cannot allow these tragedies to be the norm, to be an accepted byproduct of a culture that values the right to own deadly weapons over the right to life.

We’ve seen in the immediate aftermath of prior tragedies a renewed push to pass sensible gun laws. The talk eventually fades and very little changes as politicians bow to the powerful gun lobby.

On an individual level, we can push our elected officials to take a stand. Lee Zeldin, the congressman who represents the 1st District, has been a staunch supporter of gun rights.

In February, the House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act to establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties, including at gun shows and on the internet. It was lauded as the first major gun control law passed in decades.

Mr. Zeldin voted against it.

A similar bill, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which would allow federal authorities more time to conduct background checks, also passed the House in February. It was aimed at closing the “Charleston loophole,” referencing the 2015 attack in Charleston, S.C., where nine people were killed.

Mr. Zeldin voted against it.

Both bills have failed to go anywhere in the Senate.

Mr. Zeldin never did share thoughts through his Twitter account on those bills at the time. There was, however, no shortage of tweets about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who represents the 5th Congressional District in Minnesota, fueling the notion that she is anti-Semitic based on some of her ill-advised tweets, for which she apologized.

In a story on Mr. Zeldin’s views on gun control measures published Tuesday on RiverheadLocal, the congressman said in a statement that the bills passed in February “zeroed in on law-abiding citizens.” They failed to address the problems of a “flawed” system.

Following Saturday’s attack in El Paso, Mr. Zeldin issued a statement in which he described the attacker as a domestic terrorist. It was encouraging to at least see the congressman use that language to describe an attack carried out by a young white man.

The Second Amendment does not guarantee any person’s right to any weapon at any time, just as there are limitations on the First Amendment.

There is no one solution to stopping gun violence in its many forms, but to ignore the link between the easy access to weapons and these types of massacres is to accept defeat.

Our elected officials must do better at curbing gun violence. Viable solutions are available; they simply must be willing to act.

Photo caption: President Trump visited shooting victims and their family members at the University Medical Center of El Paso Wednesday following last week’s mass shooting. (Credit: The White House)