The NRA has spent more than $65,000 to support the Texas Republican.
More than two months after a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, left 22 people dead and 24 more injured, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) announced his response on Wednesday: a package of reforms he's calling the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and Promoting Our Nation's Safety Efforts Act, or the RESTORE Act. But gun violence advocates say Cornyn's proposals would not address several major issues.
Cornyn claimed his "plan to reduce mass violence" would create "task forces" to investigate illegal firearm sellers and buyers, expand some outpatient treatment programs for the mentally ill, increase communication between law enforcement and mental health providers, promote "best practices" to keep schools safe, and make it easier for online services to share information with law enforcement.
"I spent time with families and victims in El Paso and Midland-Odessa following the shootings and promised each one of them I would work with my colleagues in the Senate on real solutions," Cornyn explained in an op-ed announcing the proposal. "No person, family, or community should endure the heartbreak caused by the recent mass shootings in Texas. It's time to answer their call for action, and pass the RESPONSE Act to keep our communities safe from mass violence."
But advocates say Cornyn's plans omit popular proposals that could make a significant dent in the problem of gun violence, including red-flag laws to disarm those who are deemed a threat to themselves or others, and universal background checks.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said the bill falls well short. "While parts of this bill are a step in the right direction," he observed, "Senator Cornyn continues to bow to the gun lobby by avoiding two proven and popular ways to prevent gun violence: background checks on all guns sales and red flag laws. If Senator Cornyn is serious about preventing tragedies like the mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, he must stop changing the subject and support legislation to close the biggest gaps in our nation’s gun laws."
A spokesperson for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun violence had a similar reaction, noting that while the group is "encouraged by Senator Cornyn's stated desire to prevent mass shootings in America" it has "concerns about the RESPONSE ACT, the ability to enforce such a proposal, its effectiveness, and Senator Cornyn’s clear desire to avoid the real issue at hand— easy access to guns."
"Senator Cornyn has identified key issues that present a very real danger to the safety of Americans and are putting lives at risk, and yet the proposal he has outlined does not actually address them in a meaningful and enforceable way," she wrote in an email. "Senator Cornyn says that he wants to work with his colleagues in the Senate on real solutions to prevent mass shootings like the recent tragedies in El Paso and Odessa. If that’s true Senator Cornyn should start by encouraging Majority Leader McConnell to bring the universal background checks bill that is sitting on his desk, and supported by more than 90% of the American people, to the Senate floor for a vote."
Cornyn was reelected in 2014 with the strong support of the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund. The pro-gun group gave him an "A+" rating and raved that he "has always defended our gun rights in Congress!" It also gave him a lot of money.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent at least $66,585 bankrolling Cornyn and running "independent" ads on his behalf since his first Senate campaign in 2002.
"After taking over $210,000 from the gun lobby, refusing to denounce gun violence and white supremacy in the direct aftermath of the El Paso shooting, and taking money from the NRA directly between the El Paso and Midland-Odessa tragedies, it's no surprise that John Cornyn would introduce a bill that doesn't include expanding background checks or reducing the amount of weapons of war on our streets," observed Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party.
Though both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell vowed serious consideration to meaningful gun violence solutions after El Paso and a spate of other mass shootings, the two have effectively blocked any action in the Senate and neither will reveal what legislation they support.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.