As the nation’s top law enforcement official, attorney general Jeff Sessions is in prime position to respond substantively to events like Wednesday’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Speaking at an event in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning, Sessions said his first priority in the wake of the shooting—the 30th incident this year in the U.S. in which someone with a weapon shot at least four other people, and approximately the four billionth such incident since the Columbine killings in 1999—has been to put together a committee to study the issue:
We met with, this morning, our Office of Legal Policy, to work with our partners in Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, across this administration, to study the intersection of mental health and criminality and violence and to identify how we can stop people before these heinous crimes occur. It is just too often the case that the perpetrators have given signals in advance. We had a brief meeting with [these] leaders before this speech and they all agree that every one of these cases we had advanced indications and perhaps we haven’t been effective enough in intervening immediately to deal with that.
The idea of a “study” of mass shootings is particularly ironic given the Republican-backed ban, which has been in place since 1996, on federal funding of research that would “advocate or promote gun control”—a rule that has been accompanied by the defunding of firearm injury research more broadly through both official means and the general chilling effect of the 1996 law.
Sessions, who has been in office for more than a year, says the Parkland massacre also emphasizes the need for “effective enforcement” of existing gun laws. “They never get enforced,” he said. (Existing laws did not prohibit the Parkland shooter from purchasing the assault rifle apparently used in the attack.) He also added that gun crime is a major problem in “gang-infested” neighborhoods. As others quickly pointed out, Parkland was named Florida’s safest city in 2017 by a home-security trade association.
So, he’s on top of things.