Utah’s congressional delegation calls for a national conversation about ways to reduce gun violence

Authorities remove bloody rags and debris at the scene of a mass shooting, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Multiple people in Ohio have been killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours, and the suspected shooter is also deceased, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Washington • In the span of 24 hours, nearly 30 Americans were gunned down in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio — and scores more injured in those melees could eventually die from the attacks.

Rep. Chris Stewart sent a tweet. Sen. Mitt Romney did, too, then a statement calling for a national conversation about ways to reduce gun violence.

Rep. Ben McAdams also called for action.

No other members of Congress from Utah responded to requests for comment.

“My heart aches for the victims and their loved ones,” McAdams, Utah’s lone Democrat in Congress, said in a statement. “Two communities in America have been stricken in the past 24 hours. We must unite as a country and work together right now to find solutions to combat domestic terrorism. We can start by denouncing racism and hate.”

“God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. My family and I mourn with you,” Stewart, a Republican, wrote on Twitter.

Romney, a Utah Republican and former GOP presidential nominee, said in a tweet, “Our hearts go out to the victims, families, and loved ones of the tragic shooting in El Paso. From what dark and repugnant corner of the mind comes such senseless and vile brutality?”

“Another heartbreaking and senseless attack. Madness, this killing of God’s children,” Romney continued. “We mourn for the victims in Dayton and for the many who knew and loved them.”

Later, Romney issued a more detailed statement about the need for “a serious, fact-based, and thorough national discussion” about gun violence and possible legislative solutions.

“This will require courage and a willingness from all sides to find areas of consensus, instead of retreating to partisan corners. I am determined to be a constructive voice in that endeavor," the statement read.

Saturday morning, a shooter — who apparently penned a manifesto assailing immigrants and aligning himself with another mass shooter in New Zealand — killed 20 people and wounded dozens at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and hours later another gunman slaughtered nine people and injured many more in a melee that lasted a minute in Dayton, Ohio. Seven others were wounded in a Chicago gunfight.

Another day in America.

“God bless the people of El Paso, Texas,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.”

He later ordered flags at federal buildings to be flown at half-staff.

The Gun Violence Archive reported that there have been more mass shootings this year than days so far, with 251 rampages that killed more than four people in the 216 days into the calendar year.

“Americans are furious that no place in America is safe from gun violence,” said Robin Lloyd, managing director of Giffords, a nonprofit started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head by a gunman and survived. “The days when politicians can get away with offering thoughts and prayers are over. The public knows thoughts and prayers won’t prevent the next tragedy. Saving lives and reducing gun violence requires lawmakers with courage, lawmakers who acknowledge the severity of this horrific crisis.”

Several Utah politicians didn't offer any thoughts or prayers publicly following the string of attacks.

Aides to Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Rob Bishop and John Curtis didn't respond to a request for comment after the deadly shootings.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted that it was “devastating to wake up to news of another shooting — this one in Dayton, Ohio.”

“Our hearts are with the people of Ohio and all affected by this senseless and sickening violence,” Herbert added.

There has been no shortage of efforts to pass universal background checks and other gun control moves in the past few decades with little action by Congress despite an increase in mass shootings that have slaughtered thousands of Americans and forced schools to conduct active shooter trainings as a normal part of the curriculum.

Lloyd, from the gun control group Giffords, said it’s beyond time for the violence to stop and Congress should act before more Americans die. Legislation passed by the Democratic-held House is still being held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Their refusal is hurting families and communities that will be forever scarred by gun violence,” Lloyd told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Americans are rising up to demand that hateful individuals should never get their hands on weapons of war. If the Senate and president continue to stay silent, it’s up to American voters to act and replace the do-nothings with leaders that are committed to making our country safe from this crisis.”

Congress is out of session until September.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for McConnell to call the Senate back for an emergency session to pass the House-approved legislation that would mandate background checks for all gun purchases or transfers.

“When President Trump spends more time and energy denouncing Rep. Elijah Cummings and Baltimore than he does denouncing right-wing extremists who often traffic in hate and white nationalism, it shows his priorities are un-American and way off balance,” Schumer said.

Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said the mass shootings must end.

“We must act. Enough is enough,” Perez said. “Make no mistake: The bloodshed we saw in El Paso and Dayton this weekend was not inevitable. It is the price of inaction. And we must stop pretending that we are powerless to prevent these tragedies.”