Oh, puhhh-leeeeeze: After 17 students and teachers were slaughtered in a South Florida high school, one of the Sunshine State’s U.S. senators insisted it was too early to talk about gun control.

People should “reserve judgment” on political policy responses until all of the facts are known, Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News.

“I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it. There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts?” Rubio said.

How long should we wait, and what more facts do you need, Mr. Rubio? Or are you awaiting your marching orders from the National Rifle Association because of the more than $3.3 million it has contributed to your campaigns throughout your political career?

OK, then, here are some facts:

Breaking news fact:

  • A guy armed to the teeth used an AR-15 assault rifle to mow down 17 people, and injure 15 more, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday. To be perfectly accurate, I’ll stipulate that an AR-15 technically isn’t an assault rifle because it isn’t fully automatic, but I’m calling it one because murdering almost 20 people is an assault on society. Plus, try telling the families of the dead, injured victims and terrorized students that the killer was hamstrung by the inconvenient fact that he had to keep loading clips into the rifle.

Historical fact:

  • Since a gunman also used an assault rifle to kill 20 first-graders and 20 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide in which a total of 438 people were shot, 138 of whom died, according to The New York Times.

Ancient historical fact:

  • Going back to 1999, when two shooters massacred 12 students and a teacher and injured 21, and count only the fatal shootings, the tally of schools that have come under fire is 25.

The list could go on, but those seem to be enough facts, man, to spur Congress to get off the damn dime and start negotiating gun control. Far from being too soon, it’s too late for dozens of victims.

The “too soon” argument is a bogus (that’s the most polite term I can use in a family newspaper) ruse that politicians use to cover their fear that the NRA will turn off their money spigots.

Given the choice between action and whistling in the dark, most politicians pucker up — in a couple of senses.

Remember the bipartisan outrage about bump fire stocks after the killer of 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas used the devices to automate his weapons to shoot more bullets, and faster? It appeared as if legislation banning bump stocks would be immediate — and with the blessing of the NRA to boot.

Four months later, Congress hasn’t outlawed bump stocks. Turns out those initial puffs of outrage were just smoke from shooting blanks. As Congress has fiddled, only a few states and cities have taken limited steps to control guns.

Not so President Donald Trump, who wouldn’t dare slap the NRA’s hand, because that’s the hand that feeds his base, and vice versa. As usual, the president claims this is purely a mental health issue, blames red flags that people should have noticed and blames the victims — cavalierly ignoring any possible role of guns.

It’s time for somebody to stand up to the NRA and rein in guns, and to rear up against Trump’s ridiculous $25 billion wall in a quest for common sense. The bigger threat obviously is from the mass killers within the country instead of supposedly immoral immigrants from outside.

Come on, Congress, step up, show a little courage, do your job and #killthewall.

Instead of squandering billions on the albatross of a wall, invest the money in across-the-board mental health initiatives. Create programs that not only could help people struggling with various levels of mental health issues, but also could identify people whose difficulties are so extreme that they become violent.

While you’re at it, rain on The Donald’s military parade, too. Most service members don’t want it, they don’t have time for it because they’re too busy defending the country, and it would be a colossal waste of 30 million bucks that could be used to help people.

Lawmakers obviously are too inept — maybe the more correct adjective is too chicken — because they have too many vested interests in keeping their jobs.

I’d wager that two high school debate teams — even the B squads, if the A teams were busy — could brainstorm ideas from polar opposite positions. One could argue that all guns should be banned and the other, that virtually all firearms should be allowed: howitzers, tanks, whatever.

Unlike the lobby-controlled politicians, the only vested interest they would have would be their own survival, especially during a time when they have become targets.

The goal of the debate: Whittle away each other’s arguments to create common ground — allowing ownership of reasonable guns under the Second Amendment for uses such as hunting and self-defense, but keeping those and more lethal weapons out of killers’ hands.

Next step: Enact those common-sense compromises into law.

Politicians should either lead (can’t seem to), follow (seems like only when led with NRA ring in their noses) or get the hell out of the way (and let the children lead).

The children are, after all, the most vulnerable.

“The ‘too soon’ argument is a bogus (that’s the most polite term I can use in a family newspaper) ruse that politicians use to cover their fear that the NRA will turn off their money spigots.”

Mike Tighe is a reporter and columnist for the La Crosse Tribune.


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