News Editorial Board
They were chilling moments on Wednesday when the mother of a shooting victim and the Buffalo police commissioner testified before a House committee about the scourge of American gun violence, and not just because of the stories of horror they came to tell. At least two Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee were annoyed or dismissive as these two Buffalonians described the bloody murders of a white racist last month and talked about the action they hoped to see.
Zeneta Everhart and Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia did their part, and they did it well. That this was not enough to change some people’s minds is hardly surprising, even if it was disheartening.
The stark reality is that some Americans, disproportionately Republicans, seem to believe that nothing can ever justify any response, however sensitive, to horrific gun violence – no matter how many people are killed, no matter how often which this happens, regardless of their age. are the victims. In particular, they won’t even consider restricting access to high-capacity weapons that easily kill dozens.
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The good news is that the House, with its slim Democratic majority, approved thoughtful new gun restrictions on Wednesday. He attracted only five Republican supporters but, true to his word – a word that will cost him his seat in Congress – Rep. Chris Jacobs of Orchard Park was among them. The bill is unlikely to find sufficient support in the equally divided Senate, subject as it is to the filibuster.
Everhart is the mother of a man seriously injured in the May 14 shooting at the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue. Zaire Goodman was shot in the neck but miraculously survived the assault which authorities say was carried out by an outspoken racist. She wondered — with good reason — if the shooter had turned racist because his schools didn’t teach him enough about the history of race in America.
The apparent response from a Republican member was telling. Washington bureau chief Jerry Zremski reported that Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., seemed to be saying, under his breath, “Oh my God. That wouldn’t be a surprising response from some Republicans whose opposition to teaching children about the country’s racial history stems from a desire, as Everhart put it, to “whitewash education.” But the undeniable fact is that racism runs deep in our history, including recent history.
Gramaglia’s testimony, meanwhile, lent support to red flag laws, intended to remove firearms from people who show themselves to be dangerous to others or to themselves. These laws have limits, require evidence and allow appeals.
Nonetheless, Gramaglia’s testimony prompted Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., to theatrically throw his pen over his shoulder and criticize Gramaglia as a police commissioner willing, according to Higgins, to violate the constitution by seizing weapons by this eminently sensible standard. “I see that as a problem,” he said.
A lesser problem for him, of course – if there is one – is making it easy for 18-year-olds to buy and then keep dangerous guns and commit unspeakable crimes with: Ten Buffalo Gun Kills. Nineteen children and two teachers murdered in Texas. And red flag laws are the problem?
Among those who voted against the House measures on Wednesday was Representative Claudia Tenney whose district, if she wins in November, will include part of Niagara County. She offered the usual Republican boilerplate on “reflex” reactions. They are not. These ideas have been discussed and considered for years, but blocked by Republicans.
She had some valid suggestions — about better background checks, for example — but the instinctive response was hers. There is a lot to do. Reducing access to military-style weapons is one.
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