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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Rep. Chuck Fleischmann speaks during a Memorial Day program at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.

A doctor's testimony to Congress on Wednesday about what he saw in a Uvalde, Texas, emergency room was devastating: The first two bodies he saw were "pulverized" and "decapitated." This, from the rapid, horrific damage done by the shooter's AR-15-style rifle.

On the heels of that and other testimony, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to raise the age for buying semiautomatic weapons to 21, to ban high-capacity magazines and to establish stricter requirements regulating the storage of guns in homes. The vote was 223 to 204. Once again, Republicans split bitterly with Democrats.

In the end, only five House Republicans voted for the bill: Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio; Chris Jacobs, N.Y.; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Fred Upton, R-Mich.

The vote was reported in The New York Times at 7:33 p.m. Just one minute later, dated "Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 7:34 p.m.", the Times Free Press Times Editorial Page editor received an email from the spokesman of Tennessee's 3rd District Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

Our Republican congressman offered this statement about the "House Passage of Gun Control Legislation."

"Gun control always restricts the rights of law-abiding, responsible Americans to practice their Second Amendment rights and never stops criminals from breaking the law. The legislation passed in the House contains unconstitutional restrictions on Americans' rights, such as prohibiting 18 to 20 year-olds from buying nearly all semiautomatic rifles and shotguns and establishes federal red flag laws that take away responsible gun owners' right to due process.

"Instead of restricting Americans' rights, we must focus on hardening schools, funding mental health services, expanding drug treatment and interdiction, information sharing between law enforcement, and giving our police resources to go after criminals and flood high crime areas with officers."

Funny. Chattanooga has had two back-to-back weekend mass shootings — about a week apart — since Memorial Day weekend, and we've not seen where Fleischmann has offered "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and their families. Our own victims. His own victims. His spokesman, Justin Doil, did not respond to our email request Thursday asking if we missed it.

In late May, just before the first Chattanooga shooting, we wrote about Fleischmann tweeting after the May 24 Uvalde, Texas, school shooting: "Brenda and I are saddened and horrified by the news out of Uvalde, Texas. We are praying for the victims and their families and ask you to join us."

We also wrote that a constituent replied: "Do something." Of course, he already had. His webpage states he is a member of the National Rifle Association and: "I have always been a strong believer that an armed citizenry is a free citizenry. ... I promise to continue to be a strong and proud supporter of the Second Amendment by fighting every effort to infringe upon this unalienable right."

And in 2018, he voted for the "Stop School Violence Act." What was that? It was legislation to "harden" schools and train students, faculty, and local law enforcement "to recognize and address threats before they escalate."

Today, based on his statement about the new House bill, that's still the answer from this do-nothing congressman who seeks your vote again this November. (He has opposition. Stay tuned.)

Here in Chattanooga, a 15-year-old was arrested a few days after the first mass shooting, which occurred in downtown's tourism district. (Six teens ages 13-15 were injured, two critically.) A 16-year-old suspect in that same shooting turned himself in to authorities Thursday. Both are charged with six counts of attempted murder, unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

A suspect also has been taken into custody in connection with a gun possibly linked to the second Chattanooga shooting, which occurred early Sunday morning at a nightclub. There, 17 people — all adults except for one 16-year-old — were injured, including three who died.

In that incident, federal agents on Wednesday arrested and charged Garrian King with being a felon in possession of a firearm. As of Thursday afternoon, no other arrests were known to have been made in that case.

Of course, Fleischmann isn't alone in his resistance to legislating for gun safety. You'll notice of the five Republican House members who supported the bill, none were from Tennessee, Georgia or Alabama.

Of the issues raised in Wednesday's House Committee on Oversight where the Texas doctor testified, Georgia Rep. Jody Hice said religion and morality, or the absence of them, were the main factors contributing to the violence.

Really? Well give some nonreligious and immoral 18-year-old anywhere a pocketknife and a stick. Do you think he can pulverize and decapitate and otherwise kill 19 students and two teachers while keeping some 20-odd law enforcement officers cowering outside a classroom door?

Sadly, it isn't just the cowardly Republican House members (and two Democrats) we need to excoriate over their lack of support for gun safety legislation. Most political observers think the bill passed by the House is "doomed" in the Senate.

That's not quite right, though. If we keep electing these clowns, it is us — not just gun safety legislation — that is doomed.

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