The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard came a week after voters recalled two Colorado legislators who supported tougher gun measures, illustrating the strong political headwinds faced by lawmakers seeking to respond to the violence.
Obama, for one, has been powerless to get legislation passed despite a string of mass shootings during his presidency.
In the wake of the shooting at the Navy Yard, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president is 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.
Even as it was unfolding, the Washington shooting was reigniting talk about guns. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a leading advocate of gun control legislation, mourned “the litany of massacres” the country has suffered in the form of mass shootings.
“When will enough be enough?” Feinstein asked. “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.”
But it was far from certain whether the shooting would actually influence the larger debate over gun control vs. gun rights, given that the already difficult politics of the issue have gotten only tougher since December’s shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. That shooting, which killed 20 first-graders and six staffers, spurred Obama to propose stricter firearms laws to prevent future deaths.
Gun owners, aided by their advocates at the National Rifle Association, have successfully fought Obama’s legislation, even though polls show broad support for tougher gun laws.