West Texas mass shooting reignites gun control debate

West Texas mass shooting reignites gun control debate
© Greg Nash

A mass shooting in West Texas on Saturday reenergized a push by Democrats for tighter restrictions on guns on Sunday even as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE said the deadly rampage, which killed at least seven in the cities of Odessa and Midland, “hasn’t really changed anything.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), a 2020 presidential hopeful who became one of his party's loudest and most sustained voices on the issue after a mass shooting killed 22 in his home town of El Paso, Texas, last month, made the rounds again on the Sunday morning talk shows to reiterate his support for stronger gun control measures and his frustration with what he saw as a lack of action.


"The rhetoric we’ve used, the 'thoughts and prayers' … have done nothing to stop the epidemic of gun violence," O’Rourke said on CNN’s "State of the Union" on Sunday, adding, "This is f---ed up."

O’Rourke has published proposals calling for a ban on assault rifles and mandatory buyback and licensing programs as well as universal background checks and "red flag" laws.

"The challenge is so grave, the threat is so grave, that we can’t meet it with half-measures or only half the country," he said.

Fellow Texan and presidential candidate Julián Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development secretary, said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" that many gun owners would be on board with some reforms.

"Oftentimes it's actually hunters and folks that shoot on a range that understand that you don't need these weapons of war, the AR-15 and other similar weapons. I think more and more, many of them get it," Castro said. The weapon the shooter used Saturday has not yet been disclosed.

"To get them to go with something that we can compromise on, at least universal background checks, I think we can do more than that in the future," Castro added.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (R-Pa.), the co-author of an unsuccessful bipartisan background checks bill he is attempting to revive, said Trump remained interested in “doing something meaningful” on gun violence.

However, Toomey sounded a less confident note than he did in the wake of the El Paso shooting on the potential for policy changes.

"I can't guarantee an outcome. I'm not sure where this all ends. But the president is very interested, I remain very interested in measures that would make it harder for people who shouldn't have guns to get guns. And, you know, we're going to take a very serious run at it," Toomey said on ABC’s "This Week."

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he was “hopeful” the Senate would take action when it reconvenes this month, noting that as governor of Florida he signed a so-called red flag law in the wake of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

President Trump, who signaled support for stronger background checks in the wake of the El Paso shooting but later backed off the issue, told reporters Sunday, "We're looking at the same things. ... It really hasn't changed anything."

He said background checks “would not have stopped any of” the mass shootings in recent years. Details of the shooter beyond his race and age, including whether he would have been flagged by a stronger background check system, have not yet been made public.

The president reasserted that mass shootings are a "mental problem," a characterization experts, including the American Psychiatric Association, have disputed, noting that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.

Trump also tweeted in response to the shooting Sunday morning, calling it “a very tough and sad situation.”