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Joe Henderson: Actually, we should politicize tragedy

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Don’t politicize tragedy. That’s on page 1 in the standard response manual for how gun rights supporters respond to a mass murder like the one Sunday morning in Las Vegas.

That’s where U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell turned when reporters asked if he might consider tougher controls on weapons now that 59 more people were dead.

Look, the investigation has not even been completed, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” McConnell said.

Key words there: “if there are any.”

So, um … senator? When, exactly, would be it not be “premature” to discuss this on the Senate floor?

Oh, piffle. We already know how this will go. McConnell will use the full force of his role as Majority Leader to make sure that no tougher laws get a public airing, let alone passage.

If that’s not politicizing a tragedy, I’m not sure what is. That’s making decisions by indecision.

Politicians like McConnell are banking on the public’s increasing numbness to these tragedies, and they generally have been right. If nothing changed after the Sandy Hook massacre of school children, why would we think anything will happen now?

Think it through. McConnell is one of the most powerful politicians in the country. He makes his living in politics. It’s his job to find political solutions to complex problems.

His words suggest he already has done that, using his political might to effectively stop any real momentum on gun control before it gets a chance to start. To say politics shouldn’t be part of the conversation now is disingenuous. These things are always totally political.

After the murders last year at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Republicans almost trampled each other trying to inject politics into a tragedy. That’s because the guy who pulled the trigger, Omar Mateen, was a convert to radical Islam. The Washington Post broke it down: 80 Republican lawmakers invoked some variation of “radical Islam”

Sen. Ted Cruz jumped in with a swipe at “vicious Islamist theology.” Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, chimed in with, “I believe this is truly a world war: radical Islam versus mankind.”

The difference now?

That’s easy to see. The Las Vegas killer might have come unhinged by some secret demon that led him to commit an unspeakable crime with an astonishingly large arsenal, but he wasn’t a Muslim and so we shouldn’t politicize it.

“There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

When, exactly, is the proper time and place for that political debate?

Well, it wasn’t after 12 people died and 70 were hurt inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. — at least in the opinion of gun rights advocate Dudley Brown.

He was quoted in the New York Daily News as saying the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was “using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone.”

And on Fox News, contributor Mercedes Colwin blasted any thought to have that national conversation about tougher controls following the Sandy Hook massacre, before adding, “Make no mistake about it, we have to do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this one from occurring again.”

Well, make no mistake, it occurred again.

And again.

And again.

And it will occur again, even as the spineless people who could help look the other way and offer only thoughts and prayers instead of passing commonsense laws. They hope this will all go away.

How’s that working out so far?

We elect these people for times like this, because politicizing tragedy might the only way to stop the next one.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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