Trump rides to the rescue ... on vaping. As for assault weapons, thoughts and prayers.

Paul Brandus, Opinion columnist

It happens so often now — some 380 times so far this year alone — that if you’re like me, the headlines have become numbing. North. South. East. West. It can happen anywhere, anytime. 

What’s particularly painful is the suddenness and randomness of it all, particularly when victims are the young. Thank goodness we have a leader in the Oval Office who recognizes that there is a killer out there and something must be done. 

We have a problem in our country,” President Donald Trump said last week. “We can’t have our youth be so affected … people are dying.” He said first lady Melania Trump fears that their son Barron could one day be a victim. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, is warning that “an entire generation of children” is at risk.

Parkland dad: Real emergency is guns 

You’ve probably figured out that I’m talking not about assault weapons here but vaping— the use of electronic cigarettes where tobacco is heated but not burned. The smoke that’s produced, the vapor, has been either the confirmed or probable cause of the above-mentioned deaths and illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It’s great that the president is concerned about an issue affecting the safety of our youth. E-cigarettes, after all, are a relatively new thing, and if they are harmful, if they cut lives short, then it is certainly appropriate for our elected officials to do something about them. 

Sept. 11, 2019

It’s a shame though — and despicable hypocrisy — that such angst and determination to act on a matter of public safety doesn’t extend to what is indisputably a far greater public safety menace: assault weapons. 

When it comes to vaping, we get pledges to remove products that do harm. 

When it comes to assault weapons, we get thoughts and prayers. 

"Be consistent," Fred Guttenberg tells me. “And that’s the problem. We have a far bigger emergency, an exponentially bigger emergency, with kids and adults dying from gun violence — and on that we get crickets.”

Protect kids from vaping AND guns 

Perhaps you’ve heard of Fred. His 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was gunned down at school in Parkland,Florida, last year. She was one of 17 killed and 17 wounded by a troubled former student wielding an AR-15-style semiautomatic.

“I support what the president is doing to address the threat of vaping,” Guttenberg says. “It’s a wonderful thing to do to want to save kids and to save adults. If it saves the lives of children and adults, that’s great.” 

But Trump's failure to act on gun violence shows hypocrisy, he adds. Guttenberg, 54, is dedicating the rest of his life to fighting for commonsense gun safety reforms. 

From a cardiologist and medical schools CEO: Gun violence is a health crisis, not a political football. It's time to act

What’s the difference between vaping and guns, both widely available products that kill? The swamp. The National Rifle Association greased Trump’s 2016 campaign with some $30 million. In return for this legal bribery, it expects Trump to do its bidding. Trump has played the eager lapdog, literally giving NRA top gun Wayne LaPierre a seat at the table and taking his late-night calls. 

Guns don’t kill people, Trump and his fellow swamp creatures insist, people kill people. It’s not the product, silly! Unless it’s e-cigarettes. Then of course we have to get rid of it, and we must act immediately. 

What will McConnell do on guns?

The gun lobby has paid off the president. It has paid off enough Republicans — and to be fair, a smattering of Democrats — to shoot down any meaningful attempts to do something about gun violence. One politician lining his pockets with this blood money is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. At the time of the Parkland shooting, McConnell had taken $1.26 million from the NRA. 

'Crazy' is not a diagnosis: I have a mental illness. Don’t scapegoat, institutionalize people like me after shootings.

Three gun bills are working their way through the Democratic-controlled House, including measures to ban large-capacity magazine purchases, restrict criminals convicted of hate crimes from buying or possessing firearms, and encourage state and federal "red flag" laws allowing authorities to remove firearms from individuals believed to be a danger with a court petition. 

It’ll be interesting to see whether McConnell, under growing pressure to do something, will act. 

The six-term Kentucky lawmaker likely will face a tough 2020 reelection challenge from Amy McGrath, a Democratic Party recruit who, as a Marine Corps fighter pilot, flew 89 combat missions against al-Qaida and the Taliban. “Moscow Mitch” (that’s another story) needs all the help he can get. But go against the NRA? I don’t think he has the guts.

My jaundiced view here is that e-cigarettes are being banned because Juul Labs, the market leader in this nascent industry, hasn’t handed over enough money yet to the right people. Don’t they know how things work in the nation’s sleazy, swampy capital?

Paul Brandus, founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports, is the author of "Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency" and is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReports

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump wants to keep your kids safe from vaping but not guns