Mass shooting rekindles gun debate

The national debate over gun violence was rekindled Monday after a gunman in Las Vegas opened fire on an outdoor concert crowd, killing at least 59 and wounding or injuring more than 500 others. 
 
It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — and the second attack to earn the distinction in a little over a year.
 
In Washington, the reaction to Sunday night’s killings felt eerily similar to massacres that have unfolded around the country, from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., to the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
 
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Almost immediately, Democrats renewed their calls for stricter gun laws. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) to establish a committee to study the matter and bring background check legislation to the floor. 
 
Ryan ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims, stating, “The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences, and in our prayers.”
 
But Pelosi and other Democratic leaders Monday said prayers are not enough. 
 
“We must respond to these tragedies with courage, unity and decisive action,” Pelosi wrote in her letter to Ryan. 
At the White House, President Trump showed no appetite to engage in the gun debate. He instead chose to focus on a message of unity and mourning.
 
A somber Trump called the shootings an “act of pure evil” and said he would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with local officials, first responders and victims’ families. 
 
 
The Trump administration on Monday indicated it would be “premature” to discuss new gun laws in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, when some key facts remain unclear.
 
“Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is a time to unite as a country.”
 
Retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, who rushed to Capitol Hill on Monday with his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), rejected the notion that the immediate aftermath of shootings are a bad time for policy debate on preventing gun violence.
 
“If not now, when?” he said.
 
Giffords was shot in the head during a 2011 constituent event in Tucson, and barely survived.  
 
Despite those calls, it appeared Monday that little has changed on Capitol Hill since a gunman mowed down 49 people in June 2016 at the Pulse nightclub in Florida. 
 
Congress rejected a slate of bipartisan gun control measures in response to the Orlando massacre, highlighting advocates’ failure to push through even modest reforms.
 
At the time, House Democrats staged a dramatic 26-hour sit-in on the House floor to protest congressional inaction — to little effect. Senate Democrats launched a 15-hour filibuster that earned them votes on four relatively popular measures, all of which failed. 
 
Among those failed bills were a pair of measures aimed at restricting sales to people on the federal terrorism “watch list.” 
 
Gun-control supporters were optimistic some Republicans might back it because the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, had expressed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 
The National Rifle Association (NRA), however, vigorously opposed the measure, saying it could deprive innocent people of their Second Amendment rights. The powerful gun lobby argued the attorney general has too much discretion over who goes on the list — it requires a subject have only a “reasonable suspicion” of a terror connection.
 
In June of last year, Trump appeared to side with Democrats on the issue. “We have to make sure that people that are terrorists or have even an inclination toward terrorism cannot buy weapons, guns,” he said at the time. 
 
As president, Trump hasn’t called for Congress to change the law and in April, he told the NRA “you have a true friend and champion in the White House.”
 
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Monday refused to wade into the gun debate, just days after he returned the Capitol on crutches. Scalise suffered life-threatening injuries when he was shot by a gunman who opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in June. On Monday, he called on “people across America to stand together in solidarity” and donate blood to help save victims’ lives.
 
A more immediate concern for gun-control advocates is stopping gun rights legislation that is moving in the House. They are opposing a bill sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) that would allow more people to purchase gun silencers — or suppressors.  
 
“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE tweeted. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
 
But others claim such a measure would have little bearing on mass killings, since suppressors do little to quiet gunfire from automatic weapons. 
 
Much is still unknown about the type of weapons the alleged shooter, Stephen Paddock, used in the massacre. Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said more than 10 rifles were found at the scene of the crime. 
 
Experts say audio recordings of the shooting indicate at least one gun he used was an automatic weapon, but authorities have not confirmed that.
 
Paddock, of Mesquite, Nev., had no significant prior criminal history. His shocked brother described him to CBS News as “just a guy” who liked to drive into Vegas to gamble — but “wasn’t an avid gun guy at all.” 
 
“The fact that he had those kind of weapons is just — where the hell did he get automatic weapons?” an emotional Eric Paddock asked.
 
Democrats said that’s exactly the concern they’re trying to address.
 
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) warned that Congress has “blood on our hands” for failing to act in the wake of the Pulse nightclub and Sandy Hook shootings.