“The country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough,” Bloomberg said. “We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership — not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today.”
Isolated Calls for Action
But the statements of support for new gun control proposals on Friday notably lacked Republican representation, an early sign that a bid to limit gun rights will struggle to find bipartisan backing.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, emphasized that Americans should “come together in God’s grace to pray for the families of the victims, that they may find some comfort and peace amid such suffering.” The speaker canceled the weekly Republican address to the nation “so that President Obama can speak for the entire nation at this time of mourning.” A Boehner spokesman declined to comment on Obama’s call for policy changes.
Many Democrats also stopped short of calling for policy changes, instead saying that Friday was “a day for mourning the loss of the victims and for coming together as Americans,” as Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa., put it in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was “in shock and disbelief at this horrible tragedy that took so many innocent lives.” Neither Reid nor House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., directly called for new gun control legislation in their statements Friday afternoon.
Rep. Ron Barber, the Arizona Democrat and former aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — whom he succeeded in the House after she was targeted by a gunman in Tucson in 2011 — also stopped short of calling for policy action.
“As those of us in Tucson know, senseless acts such as these tear at the very fabric of a community,” Barber, who was also injured in the Tucson shooting, said. “In times like this, we come together to support each other. To the people of Newtown, we are with you today and in the days, weeks and months ahead.”
Tough Road for Legislation
The reaction to another mass shooting in Colorado in July shows how difficult congressional action can be on gun legislation.
After a gunman who purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition online shot 70 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., Lautenberg and other Democrats introduced legislation (S 3458) to ban the online and mail order sales of ammunition. The legislation never received a committee vote, and many top Democrats did not endorse it.
Lautenberg separately sought to prohibit the transfer or possession of “large-capacity magazines” of more than 10 rounds, but that effort also stalled.
Public sentiment also does not move easily on the question of gun control.
The Pew Research Center reported days after the Colorado shooting that “there has been no significant change in public views on the issue of gun control and gun rights,” with 47 percent of respondents saying “it is more important to control gun ownership” and 46 percent saying “it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns.”
The center reported virtually the same numbers in April, months before the shooting.
The debate over gun rights legislation is influenced heavily from outside the Capitol.