Republican senator blames the culture of “sanctuary cities” for mass shootings

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) on Tuesday reiterated a normal Republican talking point that gun laws don’t affect gun violence, with a twist: It’s the existence of “sanctuary cities” that creates a lawless culture fostering mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas, he said.

Two days after a lone white American gunman killed more than 58 people in Las Vegas, what is now considered one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern US history, Inhofe said the country is “inundated with permissive laws” — like those in “sanctuary cities” where local law enforcement doesn’t enforce all federal immigration laws — perpetuating the “cultural problem” behind mass shooting.

“That has a lot more to do with [mass shootings] than gun owners laws,” Inhofe told me. “You can go ahead and break a law and you can come to a sanctuary city, and they wouldn’t enforce the laws.”

In wake of the Las Vegas massacre, there has been a renewed conversation about gun control reforms. Since the shooting in Sandy Hook in 2012, in which 20 children were killed, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings in the United States. When asked about it on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

But Republicans in Congress, like Inhofe, haven’t warmed to the idea of gun control. “[An issue like sanctuary cities] is something that certainly has a profound impact on people’s behavior,” he said.

Read the full exchange with Inhofe below.

Tara Golshan

The president said today that there would be some conversation on gun laws. Do you think —

James Inhofe

On what?

Tara Golshan

On gun laws. Do you think that in the future — do you think that there is anything Congress can do?

James Inhofe

No. Because everything they are talking about now is already illegal. Nothing that they have mentioned — the individuals that are trying to infringe upon Second Amendment rights — none of those things would have precluded this from happening. So, yes, there is going to be discussion. There is going to be discussion on it. But I don’t think anything is going to happen on that.

Tara Golshan

So what do you say to Americans who are concerned that the US has more gun-related homicides than other developed nations, and 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook?

James Inhofe

Hey, you’re pretty good.

Tara Golshan

I did my research.

James Inhofe

You — okay. Well, again, you just have to look at each one. What would have happened if we had any of these changes that we talk about — and it would not have precluded them from happening. We go through this every time, whether it’s in Connecticut — that isn’t the problem. The problem is a cultural problem. So that’s what I would say to them.

Tara Golshan

So how do you address that then? Clearly this isn’t sustainable —

James Inhofe

Well, that’s the big subject. How do you address the problems that we have in this country? Whether it’s stronger laws, whether it’s —

Tara Golshan

What kind of laws?

James Inhofe

Well, no — you’re asking a bunch of questions.

Tara Golshan

What?

James Inhofe

Well, I’m just saying you’re not going to resolve it by passing laws in terms of restricting gun owners’ rights.

Tara Golshan

So I see that you are recognizing that there is a problem. So you are just saying it’s not something that Congress can solve or even work toward?

James Inhofe

There’s a cultural problem. There are a lot of problems in this country having to do with permissiveness. Having to do with — what about all these states that have laws that protect people who break laws? I mean, the cities that support [a culture of permissiveness] — that is something that certainly has a profound impact on people’s behavior. You can go ahead and break a law and you can come to a sanctuary city, and they wouldn’t enforce the laws.

Tara Golshan

So you’re saying the presence of sanctuary cities is perpetuating the culture of the Las Vegas shooting?

James Inhofe (talking over question)

I’m saying we’re inundated with permissive laws — that has a lot more to do with it than gun [ownership] laws. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I’m saying.

Tara Golshan

Just to clarify —

James Inhofe

Look, it’s got to come to an end here. You are asking the same question over.

Tara Golshan

Okay. Thank you so much.

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