As Gun Control Advocates Rally in D.C., Congress Signals It’s Through With the Issue

By
The flag flying at half-staff over the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite

On Wednesday and Thursday, just days after the shooting that killed twelve people at the Washington Navy Yard, supporters of the Newtown Action Alliance and Mayors Against Illegal Guns will hold rallies on Capitol Hill to continue their push for stricter gun control. If it seems like the events were organized unbelievably fast, that's because they weren't; the rallies were planned weeks in advance to mark the nine-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. The mass shooting in D.C. is just a terrible coincidence, but Connecticut's Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who will attend Wednesday's event, predicted the tragedy might push Congress to reconsider new gun laws. "These kinds of mass shootings provide an impetus and momentum," he explained. The muted reaction from his fellow lawmakers suggests that's no longer the case.

In an interview with Telemundo on Tuesday, President Obama said he's taken steps "within my control" to strengthen gun laws, and urged Congress to address the issue again, adding, "I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings."

The reality is even more depressing. A day after Senate buildings were locked down out of fear that the gunman was still on the loose, members of Congress said, essentially, that they don't plan to even debate the issue this time around. "We’re going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we’ve got to have the votes first," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of gun control legislation, noting that the bipartisan background check bill defeated in April still doesn't have 60 votes in the Senate. When Politico asked Mark Pryor of Arkansas, one of four Senate Democrats who opposed the legislation, if recent events have changed his thinking, he said, "Is there a background check issue?" adding, "I’ll look at the facts and I’ll weigh those."

Many have remarked that if lawmakers weren't moved by the murder of twenty children, they aren't likely to be swayed by the death of twelve adults – even if the incident occurred less than two miles from them. And there are other factors at work. Public support for stricter gun laws is believed to be dwindling, particularly since Colorado recalled two anti-gun state lawmakers last week. Plus, Congress is busy with another budget showdown, and already lost time addressing the Syria issue.

Still, lawmakers aren't totally ignoring the Navy Yard shooting. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes, in the Senate on Tuesday both Reid and Republican Sen. John Thune asked colleagues to take a moment to think of the victims. Within a few minutes they had both returned to attacking the other political party.