The hard toll of easy gun access

A candle sends a message in a makeshift memorial outside the Dallas Police Department headquarters. (Brandon Thibodeaux/New York Times)

The unwillingness of Congress to strengthen gun rules — even modest changes to improve background checks of prospective firearms owners — reflects the extent to which a majority of its members are in thrall to the single-issue National Rifle Association.

Polls indicating Americans’ strong support of tighter gun laws haven’t had an effect on those congressmen, primarily Republicans, who march in lockstep with the NRA in their broad interpretation of the Second Amendment.

In some instances, even surveys of NRA members have shown support for proposals like better background checks.

But the terrible gun-related mass violence that is increasingly suffered by this nation fails to move the “gun rights” advocates on Capitol Hill. That adamant stance also is seen in many state legislatures, including South Carolina’s.

Those legislatures spend far more time considering novel ways to expand gun rights than looking at responsible proposals to limit their availability and use.

Will Thursday night’s murder of five Dallas policemen by a domestic terrorist make a difference?

Congress’ inaction was evident following the slaughter of elementary school students at Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

The murder of nine churchgoers last year in Charleston didn’t change a thing, either, despite evidence of a shortcoming in the current background check methodology.

Nor did last year’s terrorist attack on party goers in San Bernardino, Calif., result in tougher laws on military-style weapons and ammo.

And the murder of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., last month failed to move the congressional majority, despite being the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

In light of those terrible events, some gun advocates insist that public safety demands more guns, not fewer. The idea is that armed citizens need to be able to defend themselves anywhere they go, as the mythology of the Old West would have it.

Never mind that some Old West jurisdictions required citizens to disarm to forestall rampant gunplay.

Now what will the congressional gun club say about the murder by a sniper of five armed policemen in Dallas? Surely it reveals the hazards inherent in the easy availability of military-style firearms.

Wouldn’t the American public like to know what federal lawmakers think about these issues?

To its credit, the Senate did consider five gun control bills last month in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Unfortunately, they were all voted down.

But so far, the hard-core gun advocates in the Republican House haven’t even been willing to put gun bills to a vote. Members of the Democratic minority recently turned to civil disobedience with a sit-in on the House floor in an effort to force the issue.

The result? Zilch.

No, stronger gun laws won’t eliminate firearms violence.

But making it more difficult for the wrong people to obtain those weapons would reduce the risk.

And at some point, the bumper-sticker philosophy of the NRA must wear thin in light of the tragic toll of mass murder that has been facilitated by easy gun access.

The terrible events in Blacksburg, Newtown, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando, Dallas and elsewhere eventually have to register on the people who make the laws.

Or will it take an outraged revulsion of the electorate to force a change?

Clearly, the national gun policy — turning a blind eye to gun carnage — just isn’t working.