WASHINGTON — A deadly shooting in the heart of the nation's capital has reignited talk about guns, but it's uncertain whether the tragedy will revive a legislative debate that has gone cold in the face of opposition from Second Amendment supporters.
The case for increased gun control has become increasingly difficult, evidenced by the National Rifle Association-backed recall of two Colorado legislators who supported stricter laws and President Barack Obama's powerlessness to pass his legislation.
As Senate office buildings were closed to visitors Monday following the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, lawmakers from both sides of the debate offered sympathy for the victims. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading advocate for tougher gun control in the Senate, issued a call to action to stop "the litany of massacres."
"When will enough be enough?" the California Democrat said in a written statement. "Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life."
For Obama, it was at least the seventh mass shooting of his presidency, and he wearily mourned the victims while speaking at the White House.
"We are confronting yet another mass shooting, and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital," Obama said. "It's a shooting that targeted our military and civilian personnel. These are men and women who were going to work, doing their job protecting all of us. They're patriots, and they know the dangers of serving abroad, but today they faced the unimaginable violence that they wouldn't have expected here at home."
Asked later about whether the shooting would reignite his call for more gun control, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president was implementing executive actions and reiterated his commitment to strengthening gun laws, including expanding background checks to sales online and at gun shows. "The president supports, as do an overwhelming majority of Americans, common-sense measures to reduce gun violence," Carney said.
Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief operating officer of Washington Hospital Center, which treated several of the Navy Yard victims, said: "We need to do whatever we can — to have people argue, to have people disagree — this is something we've got to work on together . . . We've got to stop it."
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said after every shooting, "the corporate gun lobby's friends in Congress obstructed the will of the American people and stood in the way of sensible solutions to gun violence."