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Analysis

After the latest mass shooting, it’s time for an uncomfortable silence from Democrats

Republicans largely dismiss any idea for reform. Well, what’s their plan?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber at the Capitol on Wednesday, a day after an 18-year-old gunman opened fire at a Texas elementary school.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

In the wake of the 27th mass shooting at a US school this year, this one in Texas, Democratic politicians and activists swung from the fences, repeating a now-familiar set of lines.

They wondered how it is that 90 percent of the country backs expanded background checks for gun purchases, but Congress hasn’t acted to do that? Or how it is that the AR-15, the apparent weapon of choice by mass shooters, is still legal? Or why it is that someone who is not old enough to buy beer is allowed to purchase one?

But after this many years of chatter by Democrats who “refuse to stay silent,” maybe it’s time to do the opposite. Perhaps it’s time to create an uncomfortable silence for those who block legislation that could prevent another mass tragedy.

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Instead of trying (and failing) to pass laws controlling guns, it could very well be worth turning the tables on the GOP with one simple question: Republicans, what’s the plan?

They haven’t offered one for years.

Consider what happened in the 24 hours after 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old in Uvalde, Texas.

Republicans lamented the tragedy. Then said what wouldn’t work. No, Texas Senator Ted Cruz proclaimed, Congress would do nothing to undermine the Second Amendment. Ban the AR-15? Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that won’t happen because, as he told CNN, “the truth of the matter is these people are going to commit these horrifying crimes. Whether they have to use another weapon to do it, they’re going to figure out a way to do it.”

Utah Senator Mitt Romney said he could get behind passing some expanded background check bill like the one offered years ago by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, but the AR-15 discussion, Romney said, should really be left up to states.

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So does the Manchin-Toomey bill have a chance? While Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell went to the Senate floor to say he was “sickened and outraged” by the shooting, he didn’t offer any hint about what he would be willing to do to prevent the next tragedy.

Maybe he simply agrees with Republican Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert who offered on Twitter that, “You cannot legislate away evil.”

Someone on the Democratic side needs to ask. And, if he does agree, then they need to ask why he backed billions of money to fight the “evil” from Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, but not on the issue of guns.

That so-called evil and discussion of mental health are generally where Republicans have put the focus, particularly those appearing on Fox News. Let’s assume Republicans are serious, even as other countries have citizens with mental health issues and yet they don’t have mass shootings on a regular basis.

If that’s the case, they should have a plan to address mental health and Democrats should be asking what exactly it looks like. In 2017, Republicans revoked a law that made it harder for those with mental challenges to obtain a gun. Do they think that is a mistake now? And what else is on their list to tackle mental health?

Another Republican talking point on Tuesday: We need more police or school resources officers to protect schools. But (maddeningly) there was a school resource officer in Uvalde. That officer approached the shooter before he entered the school with a large gun. He got in anyway. Here again, Democrats need to press for details. How exactly can resources officers be effective to the point of preventing mass casualty events?

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If Democrats are serious about trying to do something, anything, to prevent the next mass shooting, it’s time for a new tack. They should hand the mic to the Republicans and ask for specifics. And then they should ask for more of them. It’s not like anything else is working.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.