While many lawmakers—including President Donald Trump—are discussing guns and what to do following the shooting, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana introduced a completely different bill that's generating controversy. In the aftermath of the death of a bulldog puppy on United Airlines, Kennedy has introduced a bill banning pets in overhead bins.
If you didn’t catch the massive media attention the case got, here’s what happened: a 10-month old puppy named Kokito died after a United Airlines flight attendant forced its owners to store the pet in the overhead bin during the three-hour flight from Houston to New York City. The airline took full responsibility and issued an apology to the Ceballos family who owned the dog.
"I will be filing a bill tomorrow that will prohibit airlines from putting animals in overhead bins. Violators will face significant fines. Pets are family," he tweeted.
He shared his anger on CNN, stating that it was "disgraceful" what happened to the dog.
Animal rights are incredibly important. There's no reason that a dog—or any animal—should perish due to human negligence. However, the timing of Kennedy's bill and his passion to get it out right now appears strange to many critics.
"17 people die in a high school and a month later there's a nationwide protest to get the attention of lawmakers. One dog dies on an airplane and there's a bill in the Senate rectifying it within 48 hours," tweeted writer and weather maven Dennis Mersereau, referring to the National School Walkout, when thousands of students and teachers from around the country left school to honor the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The optics that pets rights supercede human rights perturbs many. "Pets are family? So are children who get killed with assault weapons. Why don’t you file a bill about that?," added Karen Ward.
"One day after a dog died in an overhead bin and Republicans demand regulation that'll prevent it from happening again. Meanwhile, six years and 7,000 kids dead from gun violence since Sandy Hook and Republicans refuse any regulation that'll prevent it from happening again," tweeted pollster Matt McDermott.
The politicization of these issues is important here. Kennedy is a Republican and his party is perceived as largely impotent on gun control. During a town hall with Parkland survivors, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was unable to distance himself—financially or otherwise—from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has come under criticism for deterring gun laws and shifting blame onto mental illness and other factors following mass shootings. Some have pointed out, as Fortune reported, that the powerful group donated $31 million to Donald Trump's election and millions to conservative politicians, who subsequently represent its interests in government.
In fact, when asked expressly about gun control, Kennedy was against it. He told CNN, according to The Washington Times, that we need "idiot control." Of shooter Nikolas Cruz he said, “I don’t think we need more gun control policy. I think we need more idiot control. I mean look what happened here. There were what 40 different calls placed to authorities." He also stated that some people are "evil" not mentally unwell.
The NRA openly supported Kennedy when he ran for office in 2016. “John will be an outstanding advocate for Louisiana gun owners in the U.S. Senate and is the only candidate in this race who will stand strong against the Obama/Bloomberg/Clinton gun control agenda,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman, NRA-PVF, on the organization's website.
Despite Kennedy's fervor, the death of dogs during travel is very small statistically. According to Department of Transportation statistics, as reported in The Guardian, 26 animals died while being transported on planes in 2016. In comparison, there were 372 mass shootings in America in 2015. These killed 475 people and wounded 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, as reported by the BBC.
In the end, this shouldn't be a debate on whether we should protect people or animals. As a country, we should protect people and animals. It's not mutually exclusive. Lawmakers should address—expediently—the needs of all members of the American family, human and otherwise.
[Photo: Getty Images]