Some Republicans steered their comments toward the problems of mental illness rather than gun violence.
“We must focus on the root cause of such disasters and not the means by which they enact their despicable deeds,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., in a prepared statement.
Among those urging quick action was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., architect of a 1994 assault weapons ban in the wake of a 1989 elementary school shooting in Stockton, Calif., that left five students dead and 29 others and a teacher wounded. That ban expired in 2004, and Feinstein plans to mount a new effort.
Also pushing will be Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was killed during a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. She urged strengthening of background checks for gun buyers.
Lawmakers also renewed their pleas to tone down media violence. For years, Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and his allies have called attention at this time of year to entertainment violence. In the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, Lieberman wants a national commission to study the matter.
It doesn’t make everybody more violent. But it’s a causative factor in some cases,“ he told Fox News. ”We’ve got to ask the entertainment industry, ‘What are you going to do to try to tone that down?’ “
They have some political wind behind them.
”In the coming days and weeks, we will engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow,“ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed Monday.
Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns conservative Fox News, tweeted, ”When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?“ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg this fall launched his Independence USA political action committee to support political candidates who share his views on several subjects, including tougher gun laws.
But advocates face daunting opposition and skepticism. A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll this summer, after a mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, found only 51 percent of respondents favored stricter gun-control laws, while 47 percent were opposed. A CNN/ORC survey taken around the same time said 57 percent favored a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons, such as the AK-47, while 42 percent were opposed.
One of the last major pushes for gun control came in 1999, one month after the nation was stunned by the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two heavily armed students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and injured nearly two dozen others before committing suicide.
As part of a juvenile justice bill, Democrats pushed a plan to require background checks at gun shows and pawn shops. The vote in the Senate was a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Al Gore breaking the tie and allowing the change to pass.
The vote became political mythology — that Gore’s decision cost him valuable votes in his 2000 presidential bid, chilling gun-control talk by future Democratic White House hopefuls. Not only are longtime gun-control supporters ready to fight, perhaps with Obama’s help, but Republicans are in some disarray.
”The 2012 election shows Republicans need to reposition themselves,“ said West of the Brookings Institution. As the party struggles to broaden its appeal, gun control could become attractive for certain Republicans.
So far, though, the evidence is scant. Sunday network talk shows reached out to key Republicans, but few were eager to talk.
”We tried to get a Republican from the Judiciary Committee“ said Bob Schieffer, moderator of CBS’ ”Face the Nation,“ ”but all of the members were either unavailable or said no.“