President Barack Obama’s call for “meaningful action” following one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history — and one of the most shocking, with 20 children killed — is likely to face a tough road in Congress and in the lobbying circles that influence it.
“What’s he going to do? He’s not going to get legislation,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. “That’s obvious to anybody.”
Sabato and other experts predicted that Washington’s powerful gun lobby — and the many lawmakers from both parties who are cognizant of its influence — virtually assures the failure of any legislation aimed at curbing gun rights. At best, Sabato said, Obama could try other policy approaches in an attempt to improve public safety, such as by backing legislation that would require more metal detectors in schools and other public places.
“Yes, this is more shocking than most [shootings], but it takes months and months for controversial legislation even to be considered, much less voted on and passed,” Sabato said. “Gun control? We’ll see what the details are.”
Obama’s call for action came during a nationally televised news conference in the White House press room at 3:15 p.m. Friday, hours after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., about an hour southwest of Hartford. Police said 27 people, including the gunman, were killed.
“As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children,” a visibly shaken Obama said, ticking off a list of fatal shootings that have occurred around the country in recent months. “And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
Obama did not outline specifics or directly call on Congress to act, but many Democrats issued statements that echoed the president’s call for a policy response.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat and one of the chamber’s leading advocates for tougher gun restrictions, said in a statement that “Americans are sick and tired of these attacks on our children and our neighbors and they are sick and tired of nothing being done in Washington to stop the bloodshed.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said “it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”
Rep. Nita M. Lowey, a New York Democrat who will be the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee next year, also called for limiting access to firearms. In her new position, Lowey will have broader authority to try to attach policy riders to spending bills.
“Easy availability of the deadliest weapons to the most dangerous people has cost countless lives and caused immeasurable suffering, never more so than today,” Lowey said. “Our expressions of sympathy must be matched with concrete actions to stop gun violence.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent, called on Obama to immediately introduce legislation addressing gun violence.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.