Why Navy Yard shooting won't spur fresh look at gun laws
Gun debate foes traded barbs in the wake of Monday's mass shooting at Washington Navy Yard, but neither Congress nor President Obama seems to have the stomach right now for another fight over gun laws.
One day after America’s latest mass shooting killed 12 and paralyzed a neighborhood near the US Capitol, talk on the street here is whether the tragedy will revive debate over expanding background checks for gun buyers and toughening gun controls generally.Skip to next paragraph
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The rampage in the Washington Navy Yard has spurred some to call anew for politicians to take the threat of gun violence seriously and to take meaningful action to curtail it.
"There's something evil in our society that we as Americans have to work to try and eradicate," said MedStar Washington Hospital Center Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowski as she updated reporters on the status of several shooting victims. "Let's get rid of this,” she added. “This is not America."
But those who are weighing the political impact of Monday's shooting are doubtful that Dr. Orlowski and like-minded citizens will see much new congressional activity anytime soon.
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President Obama and gun control advocates lost a legislative battle earlier this year to expand background checks for gun buyers, among other measures that had some bipartisan support. The families of many of the children lost in last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary shooting lobbied extensively for the reforms, and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun violence victim, and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, were also prominent in that fight. But the proposals died in the Senate amid intense resistance from gun rights advocates and the gun industry.
At the time, Mr. Obama, with those parents and Ms. Giffords by his side for a Rose Garden press conference, chastised lawmakers for playing politics around the issue and misrepresenting the proposals. Uncharacteristically emotional, he called it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
“This effort is not over,” he said.
On Monday, in the wake of the massacre, the president called the shootings a “cowardly act.” But he made no firm pitch for more legislation, gave no fierce finger wag at lawmakers or the gun lobby. In the time since that April legislative loss, Obama has faced a string of political challenges that have weakened his already-tenuous sway over Congress: national security leaks and the latest international melee over how to handle Syria’s apparent use of chemical weapons against its citizens, prime among them.
Even if he would like to press a restart button on the gun control conversation, he doesn’t appear to have the juice to make change at this juncture in his presidency.
It’s also not clear that the navy yard shooting has altered the Senate dynamics enough to support the case for renewed legislative negotiations over gun laws. The Washington Post reports that Obama and his allies “can’t point to a single new Senate supporter.” The paper’s headline also suggests that the “gun control debate has grown cold.”