The Associated Press reports: “The gunman in a West Texas rampage that left seven dead obtained his AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check that blocked him from getting a gun in 2014 due to a ‘mental health issue,’ a law enforcement official told The Associated Press.”

This defeats one of the National Rifle Association’s favorite tactics (which President Trump dutifully recited over the weekend): Take the latest shooting and argue that a particular piece of legislation wouldn’t have prevented it. In this case, the precise proposal Democrats are advancing — universal background checks — could have, it seems, prevented this shooting.

Certainly, the larger point is that we will not stop every mass shooting, but we can prevent some and make others less deadly by deploying a range of measures — including an assault-weapons ban, universal background checks, so-called red-flag laws, limits on magazine capacities and more exacting enforcement and punishment of gun dealers who don’t follow the law. The NRA wants none of these, just more guns which, as these mass shootings demonstrate (by the number of fatalities that occurred in mere seconds), would not improve matters and would raise a host of new problems (e.g., more guns that others could steal, more suicides, more accidental shootings).

Felicia Sanders is grappling with an unexpected casualty of the deadly Emanuel AME shooting — the loss of connection to the church that shaped her life. (The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, the NRA is melting down after Doug McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart, announced in a statement that the retailer was going to take steps to further limit its sale of firearms and ammunition in the wake of recent shootings, including those at Walmart stores in El Paso and Southaven, Miss. From the statement:

We’ve been giving a lot of thought to our sale of firearms and ammunition. We’ve previously made decisions to stop selling handguns or military-style rifles such as the AR-15, to raise the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition to 21, to require a “green light” on a background check while federal law only requires the absence of a “red light,” to videotape the point of sale for firearms and to only allow certain trained associates to sell firearms.
Today, we’re sharing the decisions we’ve made that go further:
After selling through our current inventory commitments, we will discontinue sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large capacity clips on military-style weapons; we will sell through and discontinue handgun ammunition; and we will discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking our complete exit from handguns.

According to the statement, Walmart also is “respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores or Sam’s Clubs in states where ‘open carry’ is permitted — unless they are authorized law enforcement officers.”

One could sense the panic in the NRA’s response. “It is shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites,” the NRA thundered. “Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms.” The NRA likely will find that Americans are much more loyal to Walmart, especially with Trump-induced tariffs raising prices on everything, than they are to the NRA.

The NRA is right to panic. The tide has been shifting ever since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February 2018 and the mammoth March for Our Lives. A wave of anti-NRA lawmakers was elected in 2018, and a number of "A"-rated NRA incumbents were tossed out. Fear of the NRA has diminished; the Democratic presidential contenders are all running on aggressive gun-safety platforms. (Democrats, in fact, should use their debates to more directly take on congressional Republicans’ intransigence in the face of a wave of mass shootings.) And perhaps most important, through groups such as Moms Demand Action, the grass-roots movement that gun-safety advocates had long hoped to see, finally has arrived to counter the one-issue NRA voters.

As Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) once more hides behind Trump’s skirt, waiting to be told what the president will and will not accept before allowing floor votes on gun measures, Democratic voters are reminded that if they want movement on guns (or climate change or anything else), they’ll have to not only win the White House but win the Senate. (Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York wasted no time, putting out a statement: “If the House-passed background checks bill would have been signed into law, this tragedy could have been avoided. Leader McConnell — you have no excuse. The Senate must vote on the House bill next week — not a diluted bill, not a bill on other matters. We must take a vote on the House-passed bill to close these loopholes without delay.”

It’s about time that approximately 90 percent of voters get a White House and Senate that are responsive to their desire for reasonable gun measures.

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