Local and state officials shared grief, remorse and calls to action after mass shootings Saturday and Sunday in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, combined killed more than 30 and injured more than 50, but most stopped short of measures to take away the kinds of firearms used in those shootings.
“I’m absolutely sickened by the mass shootings over the weekend that left so many dead and wounded, and families grieving unbelievable losses,” Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler said in an email Monday. “This is terrorism on our front steps.”
Herrera Beutler, a Battle Ground Republican, called on Congress to find new solutions to get “unhinged individuals mental health resources” and additional tools for law enforcement to intervene before a tragedy occurs.
The Congresswoman said measures she supported like the Fix NICS Act and the STOP School Violence Act are a start, but “our work is nowhere near complete.”
Democrat Carolyn Long, who is running against Herrera Beutler for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, called on the U.S. Senate to pass House Resolution 8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act. Beutler voted against the act, which has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate.
“This is heartbreaking that we have another incident of gun violence where so many people lost their lives,” Long said. “It’s sad that we are yet again talking about this issue. There really is a strong need for political leadership in Washington, D.C.”
HR8 aims to close the “gun-show loophole” by requiring all firearm transfers to go through licensed gun dealers, manufacturers or importers. It would leave exceptions for transfers like good-faith gifts between immediate family members.
HR8 may be well-intentioned, Beutler said, but “almost certainly” would not have stopped either the El Paso or Dayton shootings since both shooters appeared to have purchased their firearms lawfully. And she raised concerns that in order to function the bill would require a national gun registry.
Long called the measure “commonsense” and said most Americans agree it’s a good idea. And she rejected any claims that she wants to take away people’s guns.
“That’s not what I’m about,” Long said. She said she grew up around responsible gun owners who cared about gun safety.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, on Twitter Monday also called on Senators to act on “commonsense gun reform.”
“Mental health issues don’t cause mass shootings, guns do,” Murray wrote. “Vilifying people who have a mental illness won’t help end mass shootings.”
Aberdeen Republican Rep. Jim Walsh pointed to a cultural and spiritual sense of despair that drives young people, often young men, to acts of violence.
“The problem is deeper than the hardware,” Walsh said. “It’s deeper than the tool. It’s deeper than the gun. The problem is cultural. ... People are looking for quick, emotionally satisfying answers, and those don’t exist.”
Walsh said that rather than gun control legislation, which he called “a false promise,” legislators could work on policy to encourage stable families and individuals by supporting religious, military or entrepreneurial activity.
“We can encourage those and make them available to people, but ... the government is not really good at telling people ‘do this thing.’ “
Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman said Monday that “if there’s one easy answer, I’m not sure what it is.”
Mass shooters spring up with different motivations and methods, Thurman said, and “we certainly can’t have a police officer on every street corner, every doorstep.”
Cowlitz Public Shooting Range range master Rob Mowell said Monday that the solution to preventing further shootings like those in El Paso and Dayton is “always the same: You enforce the laws that are already on the books.”
“It’s a tragedy. My heart goes out for those people,” Mowell said. “Anytime somebody’s shot like that, it’s a tragedy. But guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Mowell added that a person determined to kill others will find a way, whether it means bypassing gun laws or using a car or explosives.
“These barbaric slaughters are an assault upon our communities, an attack upon our nation and a crime against all of humanity,” President Donald Trump said during brief public remarks at the White House on Monday.