The National Rifle Association "sort of has a lock" on Congress, leaving lawmakers out of step with what Americans want when it comes to gun control laws, Sen. Tim Kaine said Thursday, following a deadly school shooting in Florida that left 17 students and teachers dead.
"I live in a state scarred by tragedy," the Virginia Democrat, who was governor at the time of the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"I also live in a state where the NRA has headquarters, in Virginia."
The powerful lobby has a lock on Congress, he continued, leaving so many members "dramatically out of step with the American public."
The NRA has supported background record checks "for a long time," said Kaine, but now, it also has "slowly become an organization that marches to the beat of gun manufacturers. Their idea is to sell whenever, wherever, whatever quantity to whomever."
He acknowledged that whatever steps Congress would take would not eliminate gun violence, as that would be beyond its power, but it still knows steps that would "dramatically reduce the risk of horrible tragedies like the tragedy yesterday in Parkland."
Kaine also said he does believe there is an epidemic of shooting because of the intersection between untreated mental health needs and access to firearms is "too easy."
"That's one of the things that background record checks gets you to," he said, but the access to firearms also includes the ability to get firearms of "greater lethality."
All of the circumstances behind accused shooter Nikolas Cruz are not yet known, said Kaine, but there were many signs of mental health issues where he was concerned.
"When I talk to sheriff's these days they tell me our jails are filled with people who have untreated mental health needs," said Kaine.
"They shouldn't be in jail, but if you don't treat people with mental health needs, they will eventually do something harmful to themselves and others. Then they're in jail. The combination of easy access to weapons of carnage and untreated mental health, that's the intersection that we're living in right now."
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