Last week’s killing of nine people in a South Carolina church left prospects that the US Congress would curb guns right where they have been for years — remote for now, according to lawmakers and activists on both sides of the issue.
Conceding that congressional action was unlikely soon, US President Barack Obama said lawmakers would tighten federal firearms restrictions when they believe the public is demanding it.
“I am not resigned,” Obama told the US Conference of Mayors in San Francisco on Friday. “I have faith we will eventually do the right thing.”
Others said there was little evidence that Wednesday’s killing of nine parishioners by alleged gunman Dylann Roof would make congressional action more likely, considering recent history.
“I’m skeptical it’s going to change peoples’ minds who weren’t converted by Newtown,” Senator Chris Murphy said.
Murphy was part of the US Senate’s failed efforts to tighten background checks following the 2012 massacre of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
If anything, the odds of congressional action seem slimmer with both the US House of Representatives and Senate dominated by Republicans, who have traditionally been less sympathetic to curbs on gun ownership. When the Senate rejected firearms constraints in 2013 prompted by the Newtown incident, the chamber was led by Democrats.
“He couldn’t get it going after Sandy Hook with Democratic control [of the Senate],” Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt said about Obama. “He won’t get it going with Republican control.”
Investigators were just starting to gather facts about Wednesday’s shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof, 21, faced nine counts of murder and the US Department of Justice said it was investigating whether to classify the attack as a hate crime or even domestic terrorism.
“The question remains how we keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them without violating the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said. “There’s ample time to learn more about what happened and debate ways to prevent these kinds of senseless acts.”
Murphy and others blamed the potency of the National Rifle Association (NRA) for Congress’ unwillingness to restrict firearms.
“Congress has failed to act because it’s filled with too many lapdogs for the gun lobby,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam would not address whether the Charleston shootings would change lawmakers’ attitudes, saying: “As the NRA has done for decades, we will not comment until all the facts are known.”
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