The United States is not powerless

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Time to talk about policy now? Not if bought-and-paid-for politicians can stall.

WE CAN THINK of no better example to illustrate the political paralysis and abject futility that has doomed appeals to Congress for legislative relief related to America's appalling epidemic of gun-related mass murders.

Last October, in Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire from a high-rise hotel on fans at a country music concert. By the time the gunman killed himself as authorities closed in 58 people were dead and more than 800 were injured.

Video from the scene clearly carried the sound of automatic weapons fire, like a machine gun. The term "bump stocks" thus made its way into the American consciousness. Only the most knowledgeable gun enthusiasts may have known about "bump stocks." Now, everyone knows. It's a device that can be attached to legal semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to fire rounds at a very similar rate to fully automatic weapons.

IN THE AFTERMATH of the Vegas mass murders politicians from both sides of the partisan aisle spoke out against bump stocks, vowing to take up legislation to restrict or outlaw them altogether.

Words.

Nothing but words.

Even though some prominent Republicans - normally identified with firm resistance to gun control measures - voiced public support for dealing with bump stocks, once the headlines moved on to something else the majority party quietly discarded any further interest in the matter.

See a pattern there?

NOW THE MASS MURDER is in Florida, again at a school, where a deranged gunman entered and slaughtered 17 kids and staff. As angry people decried the lack of congressional action one politician after another mouthed the usual mantra, something along these lines: "This is not the time to talk about policy and politics. This is a time for thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families."

That's the same fluff mouthed after the Texas attack on a church, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the Orlando nightclub slayings and all the others. The time is not right. Wait.

It's a stall tactic, and only the willfully blind can't see through it.

LOOK, WE SUPPORT the Second Amendment. We have no doubt and no hesitation in saying Americans have the right to keep and bear arms.

But we also know this. When the Second Amendment was adopted the right to keep and bear arms meant slow-firing and slow-loading muskets. The Framers could not have imagined things like bump stocks. Or assault rifles. Or massive magazines designed to rapid-fire high velocity bullets.

Common-sense legislation that would make background checks more universal and accurate is not a violation of the Second Amendment. Banning bump stocks is not a violation. Restricting the availability of military-style assault weapons is not a violation either. Getting better at keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill - or people on the terrorist no-fly list - is not a violation.

Yet the same cast of characters in Washington continues to blather about the time not being right to debate gun policy, after each and every bloodbath, clearly just dancing and dodging until America's short attention span shifts to something else. Meanwhile, polls show three-fourths or more of Americans - on some specifics it's over 90 percent - favor common-sense rules. Yet politicians stick with the tiny sliver on the extreme fringe. Why?

Don't be naive. Public filings show pro-gun advocates like the NRA spent around $100 million during the 2016 election cycle. That money was spent to make certain politicians keep dancing and dodging.

Call that by its name - shameful bribery.

A FINAL WORD: Surviving teens, speaking from Florida this past weekend on what seemed like all the television channels, could not have been more eloquent. Their call for a massive march of survivors and their supporters on Washington raises hope. Following through would "out" those politicians who are bought and paid for - who look away from the blood - and expose the choices they've made between money and mass murder. America is not helpless. America is not powerless to act. Yes, absolute safety can never be guaranteed - but America can do a better job than this of protecting its kids.

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