Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chair of the Senate Republican Caucus, speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Asked about mass shootings, GOP senator advises, ‘Get small’

Like many policymakers, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was asked this week about how officials might respond to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. The South Dakota Republican conceded that Congress “ought to take a look at” topics such as bump stocks.

But in an interview with NBC News’ Hallie Jackson, Thune suggested Americans probably shouldn’t look to policymakers to pass major new legislation on this issue:

“I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions, to protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try and stay safe. As somebody said – get small.”

I suppose there’s a kernel of good advice in there somewhere – if a potential victim of a gunman can’t get away, it makes sense to give him or her a smaller target – though if given a choice between Americans getting “small” and getting new protections from gun violence, I suspect most would prefer the latter.

But what stood out for me was the first part of his answer, not the second.

Asked about a deadly mass shooting, Thune said largely what we’d expect him to say, but this was the line I found myself thinking about after watching the clip: “I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions to protect themselves.”

I’m genuinely curious what “precautions” the #2 Senate Republican has in mind. It’s not a rhetorical question: what “steps,” in Thune’s mind, should Americans take “to protect themselves” from gun violence?

My fear is that the senator is simply passing the buck from Capitol Hill to individuals. Policymakers aren’t prepared to approve new measures, so Americans should be looking for answers “in their own lives.”

Feel safer?