By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a powerful video statement about the terror many schoolkids feel in this era of bloody school shootings – a new public service announcement from the group Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organized by bereaved parents of the Sandy Hook school massacre to raise awareness about gun violence issues.

The video starts out like a peppy back-to-school shopping ad, with happy schoolkids showing off their new backpacks and binders.

But then you realize a boy touting how handy his new sneakers are is fleeing a school shooter amid widespread panic; another boy uses his new skateboard to smash a window so his terrified classmates can escape. And in the awful climax, a terrified girl huddles in a bathroom stall texting her mom on her new phone as ominous footsteps approach.

An exaggeration? Not according to Nicole Hockley, managing director of Sandy Hook Promise and the mother of Sandy Hook victim Dylan Hockley, who tells CNN “my 15-year-old son’s in 10th grade now. Last week, all he did every single day was practice active shooter drills.”

So what is Washington doing about it?

“We’re trying out some ideas about expanding background checks,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina), which reportedly include extending the background check requirement for gun buyers to advertised commercial sales like gun shows, but wouldn’t cover person-to-person transactions.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insists “we need some guidance from the president,” unwilling to let his members in the run-up to an election year take a vote on a hot-button topic without rock-solid assurance the president will sign it.

And Mr. Trump’s position remains unclear.

“We have to have meaningful background checks,” he said in the immediate aftermath of the bloodbaths in El Paso and Dayton.

Days later: “We already have very serious background checks.”

And after Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke’s headline-grabbing comment in last week’s debate that “hell yeah, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” the president pounced, complaining that “Democrats want to confiscate guns from law-abiding Americans, so they are totally defenseless,” a sign, perhaps, that tougher gun laws are not on the way.

President Trump’s term has seen several moments of apparent openness to tougher gun laws, followed by retreat under pressure from the NRA and others.

But now there’s an election around the corner, and the big question is – does the backlash from the right outweigh potential voter outrage if they do nothing?

Jon Keller


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