Mitch McConnell’s ideological priorities are relatively narrow — support for upper-class tax cuts, the biggest net number of Federalist Society hacks on Article III courts, and opposition to campaign finance reform. A quietly fanatical opposition to gun control measures is one of them:
On Sept. 14, 1989, a disgruntled employee entered the Standard Gravure printing plant in downtown Louisville and, armed with an AK-47 and other guns, killed eight and wounded 12 others before taking his own life — in what remains the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history.
At the time, mass shootings had not yet become the staple of American life that they are now, and McConnell said he was “deeply disturbed,” declaring, “We must take action to stop such vicious crimes.”
But he also added: “We need to be careful about legislating in the middle of a crisis.” And in the days and weeks after, he did not join others in calling for a ban on assault weapons like the AK-47 used by the shooter.
The Standard Gravure massacre provided an early glimpse of how McConnell — now the Republican Senate minority leader — would handle mass shootings and their aftermath over the next three decades, consistently working to delay, obstruct or prevent most major gun-control legislation from passing Congress.
McConnell would go on to follow a similar playbook time and time again during his seven terms in Congress, offering vague promises of action, often without any specifics, only to be followed by no action or incremental measures that avoided new gun regulations. As a Republican leader, he also helped dissuade his conference — as after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — from supporting gun legislation and, as majority leader, refused to bring up significant gun-control measures for a vote.
Total opposition to any gun control measures is actually a fairly recent development in the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell was one of the people most responsible for making it happen, and in turn for making countless unnecessary deaths happen.