HOWEY: Of massacres, cephalopods and CEOs

In this July 12, 2016 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
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MICHIGAN CITY — In the wake of the new terror afflicting our schools, our Walmarts, our malls, our nightclubs, it appears we no longer have members of Congress. In the House, we have cephalopods, elected every two years. In the Senate, squids, elected every six.

The cephalopod is of the political molluscan class, characterized by bilateral body symmetry and a prominent head known to quip “I approve of this message” and “I have an A rating from the NRA” and a set of muscular hydrostats, modified from the primitive molluscan foot. These creatures that haunt the U.S. Capitol, a variety of K Street salons and a very occasional Hoosier town hall do have abilities. They can open containers with screw caps or, like the Hawaiian bobtail squid, can bury themselves in the sand, leaving only their eyes exposed.

Our congressional cephalopods need to grow spines.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks reacted to our American Bloody August (53 murdered by AR-15s in Texas and Ohio) by suggesting that the appropriate response to this ongoing domestic terror is to enforce the laws we already have. Somehow that seems not to be working, thoughts and prayers notwithstanding.

U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon suggested that background checks – even expanded background checks that 90 percent of Americans want – wouldn’t have prevented the mayhem in El Paso, Odessa, Midland and Dayton. Our Midland/Odessa mass shooter did flunk a background check, but then went on to acquire his weapon through a private-party sale.

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence called himself a “staunch 2nd Amendment defendant,” but said in Muncie he is open to compromise, though he reminds us, “If you read the second part of the 2nd Amendment, it’s to protect us from the government.”

Both Bucshon and Pence conjured images of Democrats going door to door, rounding up weapons in a clear breach of the 2nd Amendment. These congressman also suggest that it’s the mentally ill that are wreaking our havoc, though many other nations also have mentally ill people but do not suffer these frequent atrocities.

The newcomer to the squid tank in Washington is U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who acknowledged what WIBC’s Nigel and Hammer describes as “Americans’ sense of exasperation with the ongoing dysfunction of Washington politics.”

“Everyone there that’s been in Washington for a long time doesn’t think that anything is wrong, and they’ve become nestled into a system that frustrates most Americans, most Hoosiers when they’d just like to see a few things done well,” said Braun.

Squid Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears to be open to some kind of gun reforms, but only if President Trump gets on board. The problem with that is that every time Trump takes a phone call from NRA chief Wayne LaPierre, he reneges on everything he tells bereaved parents from Parkland, El Paso and Dayton.

Vice President Mike Pence, a former congressional cephalopod, and Attorney General William Barr have had their own “Aha!” moment, preparing a national death penalty for mass shooters. But these shooters can reasonably expect a swiftly delivered mortal sentence from a Dayton cop or a Texas Ranger, should one appear on a massacre scene within 30 or 40 seconds.

When foreign terrorists flew airliners into our skyscrapers and the Pentagon, they acted not as mollusks but as patriots with both dispatch and fortitude. But when the terror comes from home-grown white supremacists, nihilists and anarchists loosely affiliated on the internet but gaining more cohesion with each atrocity, there is nothing but inertia.

Until there is another election where enough angry moms show up to say “Enough!” of arming teachers and preachers, of making our kids go through “active shooter drills” in the places (schools and churches) that were once thought to be safe havens, the solutions will come from men and women with brains connected to spines, connected to wallets.

Walmart, after enduring an atrocity at its store in El Paso that killed 22 and another shooting in Indiana’s very own Hobart (wounding one), announced this week it was ending the sale of handguns and certain kinds of short-barreled rifle ammunition nationwide, including .223 caliber and 5.56 mm caliber cartridges, which can be used in military-style weapons.

“It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said. “We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand.”

And you can no longer go Krogering while openly carrying a weapon. “Kroger has demonstrated with our actions that we recognize the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo and who are advocating for concrete and common sense gun reforms,” the company said.

The corporations are getting it; they know a thing or two about markets. Our elected cephalopods and squids, not so much, though at least Braun appears to realize there’s a real problem. Or, as they might say on K Street, “Some squids have been shown to detect sound using their statocysts.”

As Americans bleed on streets and in malls, nightclubs and store aisles, evolution can be slow. American corporate citizens – and voters – are likely to react much faster in the coming year, an election year.

The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.

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