A fervent plea to “Do something!” was picked up and repeated by others in the crowd until it became a rhythmic chant. They were addressing Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) who was on the main street of the Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio, last Sunday night. His impossible task was to find words to explain the carnage that erupted there early Sunday morning. Nine killed and 27 injured in about 30 seconds of terror.

“Do something!” That sounds simple enough. If you have a sick kid, you take her to a doctor. If you get a flat, you change the tire. If madmen continue to slaughter your loved ones and neighbors on the streets, in churches and temples, at concerts, night clubs, and in schools using military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, you take away their arsenals.

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But that wasn’t the first reaction of many politicians who have long nursed at the teat of the National Rifle Association. They blamed the slaughter in El Paso and Dayton (totaling 30 dead and 52 injured in less than 24 hours) on the failure of mental health treatment.

They also still championed the wrong-headed interpretation of the Second Amendment that allows any person, mentally ill or not, to become his own “militia” and buy military-grade weaponry. And they continued playing a confidence game with law-abiding rural populations; warning them that any new gun laws will lead inexorably to the confiscation of all guns. They use this lie, this bogus threat, to fight almost any Democrat on the state and national ballot. After Obama’s elections, remember the jack-booted troops going house-to-house taking people’s firearms? Neither do I.

The inciter-in-chief, President Donald Trump continued this cruel charade by insisting Monday that “mental illness pulls the trigger not the gun.” He was hoping we’d all forget he’d signed a bill in 2017 that negated the Obama-era regulation designed to add 75,000 names to the national background check database. These are people receiving Social Security checks who are unable to work because of mental disorders. Obama encouraged the law as a response to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Of course, Trump couldn’t have done any bill signing without the then Republican-controlled Congress. It hurriedly passed Public Law 115-8, revoking Obama’s regulation. And no surprise, the NRA gave this new legislation its full-throated support, calling it a victory for gun rights — the gun rights of the sane and mentally ill.

We are not the only nation in the world with people suffering from mental illness. It is sadly a part of the human condition. The difference between us and them is the ready availability of high-powered weapons like the ones used in the El Paso and Dayton massacres. With a single, prolonged burst, 10 or more lives can be taken and another 10 to 20 wounded. We lead all nations in the number of mass shootings. ABC News reported that we’ve now had 17 in 2019 — an average of one every 12.7 days. Frankly, I am sick and tired of living in fear so that a small minority can play soldier on the weekends.

One 7-year-old girl was accidentally killed by a lawn dart in 1988, and the federal government banned sales of the backyard game. Twenty first-grade children were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012 by a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle, yet politicians chose to look the other way because of their fear of being pushed off the NRA gravy train and losing elections. Let that sink in for a second.

We know that the El Paso shooter was inflamed with white supremacist rhetoric. The FBI believes he especially targeted Mexican and Mexican-American shoppers and workers in a Walmart. We also know that from Day One of his presidential campaign, Trump has traded in anti-Mexican vitriol. Lately in his tweets and at rallies, he has appeared to go full-bore against mostly black and brown immigrants (even if U.S. citizens) and the black majority cities. It looks like this raw racism will be a large part of his reelection strategy. How else to explain it?

All of this means that we have an extremely incendiary situation. As long as the holder of the highest office in the land riles up certain unstable elements living among us and they have access to battlefield weapons, we can continue to expect the very worst to unfold.

Today’s Republican Party has become a refuge for white supremacists — they certainly aren’t flocking to the Democrats — and blind supporters of an “anything goes” gun rights policy. This should sit like a burning coal on the souls of Republicans everywhere. On these critical issues, party must not be allowed to come before nation.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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