Talk is cheap. The idiom fits politicians who promise to do something after mass shootings knowing full well they won’t or can’t. Their flimsy rhetoric gives them political cover in a tragedy. That’s all.

Calling for gun reform in the immediate aftermath of another mass murder is meant to reassure the recently traumatized that concerned leaders are talking real solutions in real time. It’s pointless prattle, but it works for politicians. They even attract positive publicity for expressing their purported resolve.

But the infuriating reality is that political assurances to advance gun control initiatives on behalf of the public have become as perfunctory and meaningless as “thoughts and prayers.” Consider what has been done so far in the political realm to stop or at least slow the insane explosion of serial shootings in this country.

As casualties from gun massacres climb, what are state and federal politicians doing to mitigate the bloodletting? A whole lot of nothing, that’s what.

The repeated execution of victims, brought down by indiscriminate gunfire, has not compelled enactment of common-sense gun laws. It is maddening that there remains no urgency to act as mass shootings become commonplace in America. Politicians aren’t in a rush to do much beyond offering sympathy.

Those with the power to save lives with proactive legislation on widely supported gun control remedies refuse to do so as the country lurches from one terrifying shooting carnage to another. It’s never enough. Not even after Sandy Hook. 20 dead children. Not 49 dead in Orlando. Not 58 dead in Las Vegas. Not 32 dead at Virginia Tech. Not 25 dead in Texas. Not 17 dead in Parkland. Not 11 dead in Pittsburgh. Not 9 dead in Dayton. Not 22 dead in El Paso.

The dead had hardly been buried in El Paso and Dayton when President Trump walked back the gun control proposals he called for in the wake of those mass shootings. Gov. Mike DeWine has already lowered expectations on the 17-point gun plan he called for after Dayton. He downgraded it to “a work in progress” after Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder signaled it was likely a no-go in his chamber.

As the shock from the latest shooting butchery subsides and people move on, Republican leaders retreat from their big talk and hope no one notices. After drawing favorable media attention for advocating stronger background checks, Trump reverted to parroting talking points from the National Rifle Association that meaningful checks already exist and that the bigger problem is mental illness.

Same goes for DeWine, who garnered national press coverage for appearing to act decisively on gun reform with his wife at his side. His gun control package was always a non-starter in an increasingly pro-gun, Republican-led General Assembly. He knew it. The governor’s charade was to appease anguished Daytonians who — weary of the political pretense to combat gun violence — shouted at him to “do something!”

But DeWine, like Trump, values his alliance with the NRA more than tightening gun laws to protect the public. Proof is the governor’s continuing support for a crazy concealed carry measure — vigorously opposed as dangerous by law enforcement, sheriffs and prosecutors. The bill lets anyone 21 or older (not legally barred from owning a gun) carry concealed firearms with no license, no background checks, no training. Plus, the untrained, unlicensed adults concealing a deadly weapon will no longer have to alert police to the presence of a gun during traffic stops, as currently required.

How is this doing something to safeguard the public, governor? Sort of blows the political cover you were going for after Dayton, no? At a Statehouse news conference, you said, “What I owe the people of Ohio is results, I don’t owe them rhetoric.” But rhetoric is pretty much what you gave us with a gun plan that is effectively dead on arrival in the Ohio House. Oh, well.

DeWine should expect more vocal frustration from Ohioans tired of his empty promises the next time a barrage of bullets levels a community. He won’t buck the gun lobby. Neither will Trump. Both should save their sympathy and faux commitment to curbing gun violence after the next wholesale killing.

But patience is wearing thin with Republican posturing that passes for “doing something” on universal background checks, assault weapons bans, high capacity magazines or emergency red-flag laws to keep guns out of unstable hands. Enough with the infernal NRA fallback position trotted out after every mass shooting that blames mental illness for the bloodshed — as opposed to the tactical rapid-fire weaponry used to gun down scores of men, women and children humans in seconds.

Talk is cheap, governor. Do something. Or step aside for someone who can.

 

Johanek is a veteran print and broadcast journalist.