Witt: Lack of Congressional action sadly expected

Two things (at least) bear saying about the recent mass murder in Las Vegas.

First, if anyone believes Congress is going to take any major step toward combating gun violence in America, he or she is whistling in the wind.

Congress did nothing when 12 students and a teacher were shot to death in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999.

Congress did nothing when 20 students and six teachers were shot to death in Newtown, Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The victims in both these shootings were primarily children; at Sandy Hook those children were elementary kids.

If Congress is incapable of responding to gun deaths when children are murdered so maliciously, it is far less likely this legislative body will react over the deaths of 58 adults who had voluntarily chosen to attend a country music concert, despite the higher death toll at the latter.

The outpouring of stated grief and remorse from lawmakers can be likened to an old Dutch idiom: “Lets voor een appel en een ei kopen,” which means “Buying something for an apple and an egg.”

The English equivalent would mean that it was bought very cheaply. And that’s what legislators do when they don’t follow their words of grief with action.

Second, following the Las Vegas shooting, both the president and Gov. Matt Bevin ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff.

Perhaps one might be forgiven for suggesting this was inappropriate on the part of both of them. The U.S. Flag Code prescribes when the American flag should be lowered to half staff and, although our highly elected officials have some latitude as to when to order the flag lowered, it should not be done in a frivolous manner because it demeans the meaning of why it is lowered.

Did either the president or our governor even stipulate how long the flags should remain lowered?

So, why should it not have been lowered in this case?

Consider every day this nation loses a military person who has volunteered his or her life in defense of their homeland or a first responder who, in response to those in danger of fire or mayhem, also lay down their lives willingly.

And yet the flag is not routinely lowered in respect for their sacrifices. Of course, if the flag were lowered each time one of these individuals died, it would never fly at full height, but they certainly deserve more respect than a group of concert goers.

There was an editorial cartoon in the Oct. 7-8 issue of this paper which showed a child and mother looking at a half-staffed flag. The child asks his mother what the rest of the pole is for. Her response is “Because there was a time when flags weren’t always at half staff.”

If the president or any governor cannot ascertain the difference between someone voluntarily placing his or her life on the line every day and a large crowd of people out for an evening of fun and pleasure and which should deserve the respect of a flag lowered to half staff, our leadership needs to do a good deal of soul searching.

But such soul searching is unlikely to occur in Congress if it flies in the face of NRA policy and the contributions which flow from that organization.

More’s the pity.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.