When shots rang out Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it was inevitable that the gunfire would reverberate in Washington.
With other recent mass shootings, such as the Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wis., and the movie theater slayings in Aurora, Colo., talk of greater gun control efforts ballooned on the Hill, then deflated quickly as other headlines from the campaign to the fiscal cliff weighed in.
Now, gun-control proponents are hoping a newly emboldened President Obama fresh off re-election will lead a charge to push through any number of stricter laws.
Obama says he’s game for “change,” but is not quite elaborating on what that means.
Longtime proponents of gun control on Capitol Hill quickly jumped on the news to push their cause.
“Leaders in Washington from both parties, and groups like the NRA, all say that now is not the time to talk about how gun safety laws can save lives in America,” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), who ran for Congress after her husband was killed in a 1993 mass shooting, said on Friday. “I agree, now is not the time to talk about gun laws – the time for that conversation was long before all those kids in Connecticut died today.”
“The Second Amendment is the law of the land but it was never intended to allow murderers to take the lives of innocent kids,” she added. “It’s our moral obligation as policymakers and as parents to do more to save lives.”
“We cannot tolerate mass shootings as a mere inconvenience or a normal part of our everyday lives,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). “Easy availability of the deadliest weapons to the most dangerous people has cost countless lives and caused immeasurable suffering, never more so than today.”
Retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Sunday suggested a “national commission on mass violence,” not lieu of “anything else the president or Congress or state governments want to do, but to make sure that the heartbreak and anger that we feel now is not dissipated over time or lost in legislative gridlock.”
And Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) penned an op-ed in this morning’s Chicago Tribune calling for “the majority of Americans, and the majority of thoughtful gun owners and hunters, to agree that there must be reasonable limits on gun ownership and weapons.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that our Second Amendment rights are not absolute. So can we come together and agree that Americans have a right to own and use firearms for sport and self-defense within certain limits?” Durbin wrote.
Before many of the facts are known in the fluid investigation of the Newtown shooting, in which Adam Lanza opened fire on 6- and 7-year-olds with guns reportedly taken from his just-slain mother, Democrats are basically resurrecting every recent nugget of gun-control efforts — which have little connection to the Connecticut case thus far.
Arguing that they’re addressing a phenomenon more than a single crime, lawmakers have cited the renewal of the assault weapons ban, prohibition on magazines carrying more than 10 rounds, limiting the purchase of firearms to two a month, requiring safety locks on guns within reach of children, eliminating gun-show loopholes, and keeping the mentally unstable from acquiring weapons.
There won’t be a lack of headlines from which gun-control proponents can draw to push specific tenets of legislation if they can’t zero in on Newtown. For example, George Zimmerman, standing trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, took Adderall for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and could be a prime starting point for debate about which psychiatric conditions could disqualify applicants from a gun permit.
The office of one House liberal told PJM today that they were waiting for specific facts about the Newtown case, then would “be able to look at the overall picture for gun violence as a whole along with mental issues.”
But that doesn’t mean some aren’t pushing forward while emotions are still high.
“As President Obama said last night, no one law can erase evil. No policy can prevent a determined madman from committing a senseless act of violence,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the floor today. “But we need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens.”
Republicans focused on the tragedy itself, even declining to deliver a traditional weekend address on Saturday out of respect for the victims.