Like millions of Americans, I have been watching closely the election “circus” for the speaker of the 118th Congress. After witnessing this debacle, it is abundantly clear to me that no matter who sits in that chair, nothing of substance will get accomplished over the next two years. Whether the speaker is Kevin McCarthy or Steve Scalise or Jim Jordan, the conspiracy-crazed conservatives will not allow Congress to work on any of the serious problems facing our country. This is unfortunate, as the cost of doing nothing on issues like climate, immigration and health care is far from nothing.
One issue that will most certainly continue to be ignored is gun safety. No doubt the small number of MAGA conservatives who are now exercising complete control of the House will not allow any gun safety legislation to pass as they, along with the NRA, regard the right to own all guns as sacrosanct. As a Republican member of the House, I was told by Kevin McCarthy that the NRA would not support any gun legislation, and as a result, no member dared introduce reforms. We were told by leadership and the NRA that mass shootings were a mental health issue, and no gun safety law would make a difference. This was frustrating as 1,149 people were wounded or killed in mass shootings during the four years I was in Congress.
There is no doubt that someone who commits a mass shooting has a mental health problem. If identifying and solving an individual’s mental health problem was simple, then maybe the GOP’s answer would suffice. But mental health is complicated and, as a nation, we have not made much progress since John Kennedy decentralized the treatment and care in 1963. So, don’t you think Congress and our state Legislatures should consider all possible solutions to reduce the number of mass shootings? More money for mental health is certainly needed, but why not also try some reasonable gun safety measures? There are a number of ideas that would not compromise our Second Amendment rights and might save lives. Don’t you think our politicians owe it to our elementary students; our seniors walking malls; our spouses shopping for groceries to try something?
Unlike Congress, the landscape in Michigan has changed since the November elections. The Democrats control the Legislature and can send Gov. Whitmer meaningful reforms to our gun laws. I hope legislation is enacted that will close some of the loopholes on background checks; limit assault weapons; limit large capacity magazines; and establish red flag laws. If Lansing is slow to take these steps, we need to remind our elected officials that there are no excuses as the Republicans can’t block them, and the polling data indicates that a majority of Michiganders support changes.
As far as the rest of the country, citizens need to take control of the gun issue. As mentioned above, Congress is not going to do anything. If you live in a state where Republicans, in deference to the NRA, refuse to consider meaningful changes to our gun laws then a statewide petition initiative is the only solution. People need to gather up the signatures and put the question on the ballot. The NRA will spend hundreds of millions to fight such ballot questions but in the end they will lose. Americans are sick of mass shootings.
The 118th Congress will be the singularly most unproductive, do-nothing Congress since Harry Truman gave that label to the 80th Congress. There is no reason why we the people should remain insouciant while our elected officials refuse to represent us.
David Trott served as a Republican and U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District from 2015-2019. Prior to serving in Congress, David built and sold several companies in the legal and real estate industries.