Sen. Rob Portman, tweeting prayers after Florida school shooting, has gun-law blood on his hands: Brent Larkin

February 21, 2018 GMT

Sen. Rob Portman, tweeting prayers after Florida school shooting, has gun-law blood on his hands: Brent Larkin

On Feb. 15 of last year, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and 56 other senators voted for a measure making it easier for some mentally ill people to obtain guns.

Three hundred and sixty four days later, a young man believed to be mentally disturbed used a military-style assault weapon to slaughter 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.

Later that afternoon, Portman wiped the blood off his hands long enough to tweet, “Jane and I send our prayers to the school, the community, and the victims of this tragedy.”

Heartbreaking news out of Florida. Jane and I send our prayers to the school, the community, and the victims of this tragedy.— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) February 14, 2018

Boo-hoo! Rob Portman is so sad he’s praying for all those dead kids.

What a relief it must have been to the parents of those murdered children to read those soothing words from a senator who opposes banning the weapon used in the slaughter.

Just imagine how much better those parents felt to learn they were being prayed for by a senator who over the years has stuffed more than $3 million in blood money from the National Rifle Association and other gun groups in his campaign pockets.

Republicans who run the country, including President Donald Trump -- once a supporter of reasonable gun regulations -- love to link mental illness to gun crimes.

But it’s hypocritical to blame mental health failings for gun deaths and then vote to provide the mentally ill additional access to guns.

Since Portman mourned the 2012 slaughter of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 138 people have been killed in 239 school shootings nationwide.

All that gun violence requires a whole lot of sorrowful “Jane and I send our prayers” messages.

Thirteen days after Portman and his pals voted to make it easier for the mentally ill to get guns (Sen. Sherrod Brown voted no), President Trump, in an official White House ceremony, signed House Joint Resolution 40 into law. The measure repealed an Obama administration executive order that had required the Social Security Administration to give the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of those deemed too mentally incapacitated to directly receive their benefits.

The White House has refused at least 12 requests by CBS News for a photograph of Trump signing the measure.

Why? Because it’s likely that photograph captures the president of the United States signing someone’s death warrant.

Passage of HJR 40 didn’t directly kill those kids in Florida. But it’s a symptom of the gun sickness that permeates the entire political process.

Blind loyalty to the gun lobby by Republicans (a much smaller number of Democrats are equally guilty) has created a culture where Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by firearms than in other developed countries.

Australia, which unlike the United States is not run by barbarians, is one of those English-speaking countries with strict gun laws. It hasn’t had a mass shooting since 1996.

People like Trump, Portman and others (Greater Cleveland congressmen Jim Renacci and David Joyce also belong on the list) cater to the gun lobby because it gets them votes. If people die in the process, so be it!

It must frustrate them that most of these mass murders are committed by white males. It’s tough to spew hate towards the very same types of people who put you in office.

Cleveland.com Washington bureau chief Steve Koff tried to ask Portman about his contributions from the gun lobby. Instead, he got this doubletalk from a Portman spokeswoman:

“Rob’s priority is doing what’s right for the people of Ohio and that’s what guides his legislative decisions in Washington,” said spokeswoman Emily Benavides, doing her best Sarah Huckabee Sanders impression.

Florida school massacre brings fresh gun-control questions for Rob Portman, other politicians

The same week a kid with a readily available assault weapon was slaughtering people in Florida, senators rejected four immigration bills, two of which were reasonable proposals to prevent the deportation of 690,000 “Dreamers” who may get tossed out because of Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after March 5.

Portman voted against the compromise bills. Instead, he’s pitching a watered-down version that would include wasting $25 billion in our money to help Trump build his ridiculous wall.

For years, Portman fooled a lot of people in Ohio – myself included – by carefully portraying himself as a compassionate and thoughtful conservative. He is not.

Portman is a man hard at work doing grave harm to this country, and destroying what’s left of his legacy.

One “Jane and I send our prayers” tweet at a time.

Brent Larkin was The Plain Dealer’s editorial director from 1991 until his retirement in 2009.

To reach Brent Larkin: blarkin@cleveland.com

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