Bump stocks and background checks: Where Pa. and NJ legislators stand on guns | Editorial

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Clockwise from top left: Sen. Cory A. Booker, Sen. Bob Menendez, Rep. Robert Brady and Sen. Pat Toomey were asked for their stances on four gun proposals.

Groundhog Day no longer refers to a single day in snowy Punxsutawney, but the endless loop of repetitive days playing out in Bill Murray’s nightmare. It also calls to mind the endless loop of identical and repetitive days being played out across the country after each new mass shooting like the slaughter in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.

Call it Gunhog Day.

Familiar, repetitive steps follow each mass shooting: Horror, thoughts and prayers, calls for more laws regulating the ability for people to stockpile deadly arsenals, followed by immediate resistance from Congress to do anything.

We in the media have our own repetitive responses: calling for common-sense gun control measurescalling out the NRA,  blasting Congress for inaction, and Looking for Answers.

Stephen Paddock did not give any answers before he died. There is no familiar story of mental illness, racism, fealty to IS, or anything explaining his actions.

Four key proposals could make a dent in the carnage wrought by mass murderers. Not all four apply specifically to Paddock; but  one – the banning of “bump stocks” that convert a gun into an automatic weapon — has gained traction. Other proposals would extend background checks to include buyers of guns at gun shows and over the internet, limiting high capacity magazines that Paddock employed, and banning semiautomatic assault weapons.

Three of the four limit the ability to slaughter high numbers of people as quickly as possible. It’s hard not to wonder what sane American would be against that.

It turns out that some of those Americans work in Congress. We asked area members of Congress in Pennsylvania and New Jersey their stance on four gun proposals. We asked for simple yes or no answers.

Democrats had no problem delivering simple yes or no answers, but Republicans resisted pinning themselves down on many of these questions. In this chart, “No definitive answer” means that they hedged on answering yes or no. For example, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) on whether he supports a ban on high capacity magazines: “Common-sense restrictions should be addressed.”

Sen. Patrick Toomey (R., Pa.) on all questions but the background check: “I am generally skeptical of banning firearms or firearm accessories outright, but I am certainly open to Congress’ holding hearings to learn more about bump stocks and related matters.”

Then there are those who refused to answer any questions: Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) and Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.) did not respond.

Congress listens to constituents. Call and let them know that these are black-and-white, life-and-death issues. No more hedging on preventing another mass slaughter.