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Pro-Gun Senate Democrats Soften Their Opposition to Exploring Legislation

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Republicans are also exploring a response, but most want to wait to have a debate until sometime next year, when feelings are less raw.

“It’ll be up to the majority leader,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said when asked about having a debate. “He’s indicated that the subject [is one] he’s [likely] to turn to next year,” McConnell said. “I think right now, people are properly thinking about the catastrophe in Connecticut last week.”

Others Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who was elected minority whip for the next Congress, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and retiring Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, agreed with McConnell and argued that now is not the time to have a debate.

“I think it’s appropriate for us to have a period of respect for the families,” said Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “It’s also going to be appropriate for us to have a dialogue on the safety of our children’s schools.”

He declined to say when that dialogue should take place.

Others expect to have a better sense of what to do as details emerge from the grim day last week when a gunman shot his way into an elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 children. Other incidents will also be explored.

“This week they are still burying children and teachers and principals,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “I think when we come back next year we are going to be looking at every facet of the causes of what happened in multiple places, mental health issues, cultural issues, about everything.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he’s not convinced that new laws are the answer.

“I don’t know what the government can do when you have someone this disturbed unless you take everybody’s guns away,” the Republican said.

So opposition remains, but perhaps it’s not as staunch as in the past.

“I think there is a hope among people who don’t want any action that once the grief of the moment is over Americans will go on to other things,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “I really don’t agree with that. I think this is a sea change.”

John Gramlich contributed to this report.

This article has been updated from the print version.

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