Why won’t GOP act on gun control?

Published 7:12 PM EST, Tue December 8, 2015

Story highlights

Supreme Court would not take up a challenge to a Chicago suburb's ban on certain guns

Sally Kohn: Why do Republican politicians remain firmly opposed to common sense gun control?

Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) —  

Last week, a married couple with two assault weapons, two handguns and over 6,000 rounds of ammunition killed 14 people and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California.

This week, the Supreme Court said it would not take up a challenge to a Chicago suburb’s ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines. The Supreme Court made a wise decision.

The Supreme Court seems to recognize what conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has said previously – that the constitutional right to bear arms is “not unlimited.” And yet, in light of the eerily regular occurrence of mass shootings in our country, Republican politicians remain firmly opposed to common sense gun control. Recently, Republicans even voted against a measure that would prevent those on our nation’s terror watch list from being able to buy guns.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

But what do Republicans want to ban? Muslims. GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump just called for Muslims to be banned from entering the United States. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have suggested barring Syrian refugees who are Muslim. Marco Rubio has talked about shuttering mosques.

As journalist LZ Granderson suggested on Twitter, it’s amazing how those who grandstanded for months about religious freedom when it came to baking wedding cakes for gay couples throw religious freedom out the window when it comes to Muslims. By the same token, it’s stunning how conservatives firmly cling to the Constitution when it comes to the Second Amendment but seem eager to tear up the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees equal treatment under the law.

The same conservatives who complained about how same-sex marriage was decided largely by the courts instead of voters want the courts to strike down gun control laws that were passed by voters and their representatives. It’s hard to argue you’re the side that stands for values when your values are so plainly inconsistent.

The Republican Party, led by their presidential aspirants, is increasingly out of touch with the safety and security needs of the American people.

Yes, they’re shouting from the rooftops about the threats from Islamic extremists, as we all should be. But when it comes to the weapons that are all too easy to obtain by not only Islamic extremists but also anti-abortion extremists and anti-government extremists who pose serious threat to American lives, Republicans show none of the “leadership” they say our nation so desperately needs.

Republicans are reacting to a scary but relatively small handful of terrorist attacks by Muslims on U.S. soil as though they’re a daily occurrence. Yet Republicans won’t do anything on the daily occurrence of gun violence in America.

This is not leadership. This is cowardice. Republican politicians are putting the demands of the NRA ahead of the safety and security of the American people. And even the conservative Supreme Court appears to think they’ve gone too far.

Of course, this all makes sense if you understand the mentality of those Americans who largely make up Donald Trump’s and Ted Cruz’s base. “We need to get the Muslims out of the country before they start killing our families!” one Trump supporter told a GQ reporter.

Never mind that we know that weapons kept for self-defense are 12 times more likely to hurt family members than intruders. And never mind that a retired Air Force medic who survived the San Bernardino shooting said that even with a weapon he couldn’t have done anything to prevent the bloodshed.

The pro-gun anti-Muslim conservative right see themselves as “the good guys” who need to arm and defend themselves from “the bad guys.”

In his dissent of the court’s decision to not hear the case coming out of Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, Justice Clarence Thomas trivialized AR-15s and similar semiautomatic weapons as “modern sporting rifles.” Joined in the dissent by Scalia, Thomas wrote, “The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting.”

He is undoubtedly correct. But even a strong majority of those gun owners support common sense reforms like mandatory background checks and closing gun law loopholes.

Gun reform can’t fix everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. The Supreme Court has just tacitly paved the way for more local jurisdictions to take steps to curb guns and if Republicans in Congress won’t act, more cities and counties and states should do so on their own. No more excuses.

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