The nation has mourned one major mass shooting after another over the last few years, but they didn’t persuade enough lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to pass and enact any new gun legislation. All were hundreds or thousands of miles away from the halls of Congress.
Monday’s shooting tragedy that killed 13 people, including a lone gunman, took place at the Washington Navy Yard, just a mile and a half from the United States Capitol building. This physical closeness, one senator said, caused a number of his colleagues to become “totally shaken.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin Tuesday that people he works with were overwhelmed “by the physical proximity and the senselessness and the randomness of this violence.” He’s hoping that the killings will be enough to reinvigorate the charge for new gun legislation at the federal level and sway lawmakers who weren’t convinced before.
“My hope is that this senseless killing will help us break through the gridlock that so obstructed us the last time,” he added. “We lost that vote in April, but that was not the last vote.”
Blumenthal, one of the Senate’s most vocal advocates for gun reform since the Newtown, Connecticut shooting tragedy, also told Melvin that the violence at the Navy Yard brought back memories from his home state of the deep sadness from nine months ago.
“It is the accumulation of these horrific tragedies,” he said. “Yesterday brought back many of those terrible memories when I went to the Sandy Hook fire house and saw the parents and loved ones of those beautiful children who were killed in Sandy Hook. I hope that this tragedy will elicit the same reaction on the part of the American people that Janis Orlowski had when she said she was sickened by it.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat representing the District of Columbia, is planning a moment of silence on the House floor Tuesday night to remember the Navy Yard victims. While the shooting itself was frightening, she mentioned that its location was supposed to be a very secure facility.
“We’ve seen that you can get guns into a school, but we didn’t expect that you could get guns into one of the most secure facilities in the United States. That guns proliferate, they’re bound to get someone you don’t want them to get.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., took to the Senate floor early Tuesday to renew the call for action on gun legislation, indicating that the D.C. tragedy nearby was impossible for lawmakers to ignore.
“God forbid we go on with business as usual today and not understand what happened yesterday,” he said. “The vast majority of Americans think this is just common sense. We can protect the right of law-abiding citizens to use guns in a responsible, legal way, for sporting and hunting and self-defense. But we’ve got to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them.”
In April, a bipartisan bill brought by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., would have mandated universal background checks for all gun purchases, but it failed to get enough votes in the Senate. NBC’s Kasie Hunt reported Tuesday afternoon that despite this recent shooting, it’s unlikely that momentum for gun reform has changed.
“The reality is this debate on Capitol Hill is in the same place as it was yesterday morning, which is to say, completely stalled,” she told NewsNation’s Tamron Hall. "Democratic aides acknowledge that those five votes that they need just still aren’t there.”