Washington Navy Yard shooting renews call for gun control among Democrats

Prominent Democrats are calling for Congress to take up gun control legislation it the wake of the Navy Yard shootings that left 12 people dead. 

“This is one more event to add to the litany of massacres that occur when a deranged person or grievance killer is able to obtain multiple weapons ... and kill many people in a short amount of time," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of several Democrats calling for Congress to take another look at gun control. 

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) echoed Feinstein's comments. 

“We are becoming far too familiar with senseless, tragic violence ... and these repeated incidents demand our attention,” he said.

“When will enough be enough?” added Feinstein, who led the effort to implement gun control regulations in the wake of last year’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

That effort ended with a whimper, as the Senate failed to move forward on legislation to tighten background check laws on gun purchases in the face of stiff opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights supporters. 

Just last week, two Colorado state lawmakers were defeated in a recall election driven by gun rights groups. Their losses highlighted the continued strength of gun rights groups in the political world, even as gun control groups have sought to flex their muscles in elections.

Some lawmakers were critical of the NRA on Monday. 

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in a message on Twitter displayed a cartoon of a semiautomatic rifle etched with “NRA” in its side aimed at both the U.S. Capitol building and the Washington Monument.

On its website, the NRA released a message Monday that states: “We grieve and pray for those who lost their lives and for those hurt at the Washington Navy Yard.”

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The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence listed shootings in recent years in a supermarket parking lot, an army base, a movie theater, a temple, shopping malls, universities, high schools, elementary schools and now a naval facility.

The group's president, Dan Gross, said Congress should be held accountable for the latest example of mass gun violence. 

“We do know that policies that present a real opportunity to save lives sit stalled in Congress, policies that could prevent many of the dozens of deaths that result every day from gun violence,” Gross said in a statement.

“As long as our leaders in Congress ignore the will of the people and do not listen to those voices, we will hold them accountable. We hope Congress will listen to the voice of the people and take up legislation that will create a safer America."

Former White House adviser David Axelrod questioned why Alexis was able to purchase a gun after having previous run-ins with law enforcement for gun-related issues.


Since 2009, more than 50 mass shootings have occurred, which amounted to more than one per month, according to a study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg founded the group.

But Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) on Tuesday said he doubted the violence at Navy Yard would lead to new gun laws.

The minority whip, a vocal proponent of tighter firearms controls, said Monday's shooting rampage would prompt another conversation about how to keep guns from the hands of violent people, but the fear of political retaliation from gun rights advocates would prevent Congress from taking action.

"I'm sure that it [the Navy Yard shooting] will renew the discussions about access to weapons that can be used to kill a lot of people quickly," Hoyer said during a breakfast at D.C.'s Mayflower Hotel sponsored by Politico and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

"We have seen, however, in Colorado just in the past weeks, two legislators who had the courage to vote for [gun control] legislation … were recalled in a special election," he added. "Now one can analyze who comes out to special elections, but it does not bode well for asking people to vote for legislation similar to that which went down in the Senate just a few months ago."

The Senate reference is to legislation, considered by the upper chamber earlier in the year, that would have expanded criminal and mental health background checks on potential gun buyers. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers are required to perform such screenings, creating a huge loophole in the private market.

The Senate bill, championed by President Obama, would have extended the screening mandate to many private sales.

The measure was defeated in April after attracting the support of 55 senators — five short of the number needed to defeat a GOP filibuster. The Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, is mostly opposed to new gun controls.

The accused shooter in Monday's Navy Yard shooting, Aaron Alexis, 34, was a former Navy reservist with a history of violence, gun infractions and mental illness. The Associate Press reported Tuesday that the Veterans Administration had been treating him for mental illness since August.

Alexis was killed by law enforcers after officials say he shot almost two dozen people in the sprawling Navy complex, killing at least 12.

It remains unclear where Alexis obtained the firearms he used in the shooting.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who has sponsored the House version of the Senate's background check bill, said the tragedy should compel Congress to address the issue.

“We know there is no one law or set of laws that will stop every act of gun violence. But that cannot be used as an excuse to do nothing," Thompson said Tuesday in a statement. "Congress needs to act.”

Mario Trujillo contributed

— This story was first posted at 8:17 a.m. and has been updated.

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