- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2017

Reaching for a political solution after Sunday night’s horrific shooting in Las Vegas, congressional Democrats on Monday said lawmakers’ words of comfort will ring hollow unless Congress “does something” about gun violence.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for a new special select congressional committee to study the issue, saying Congress has a “moral duty” to address it.

Meanwhile former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was herself seriously wounded in a 2011 shooting targeting her, told Congress “the nation’s counting on you” to change the laws.

But most of all, gun control advocates on Capitol Hill pleaded with colleagues not to become “numb” to the violence they said seems to be coming at a far too frequent pace.

“What Congress can do — what Congress must do — is pass laws that keep our citizens safe,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Mrs. Pelosi said the first bill out of the chute should be legislation to stiffen and expand the background check system, but said more action is needed, and a special committee could pave that path.

SEE ALSO: Trump won’t start gun-control debate after Las Vegas massacre, says White House.

“Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic. Charged with the solemn duty to protect and defend the American people, we must respond to these tragedies with courage, unity and decisive action,” she said.

Ms. Giffords, meanwhile, who alongside her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly, has become a major gun control advocate, stood outside the Capitol and raised her fist at the building.

“Thoughts and prayers are important. We send our thoughts and prayers, too,” Mr. Kelly said. “But they are not enough. Your thoughts and prayers aren’t going to stop the next shooting. Only action and leadership will do that.”

Another member of Congress wounded in a shooting — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who nearly died after being targeted at a congressional baseball practice in June — said he’s praying for the victims.

“In this tragic moment, I encourage people across America to stand together in solidarity, and to support the Las Vegas community and all of those affected, especially by giving blood and encouraging others to do the same,” said Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican.

“In the face of unspeakable evil, our whole nation must respond with countless acts of kindness, warmth and generosity,” he said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan ordered flags over the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-mast Monday in memory of the victims.

“To the people of Las Vegas and to the families of the victims, we are with you during this time,” Mr. Ryan said. “The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences, and in our prayers.”

The White House said Monday it was premature to open up a policy debate about guns so soon after the shooting, in which a gunman opened fire at a country music festival late Sunday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds of others in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history

But Mr. Kelly said divorcing politics from the debate isn’t realistic anymore.

“Don’t let anyone tell you not to talk about politics when we talk about guns,” he said.

Despite the calls for action, there are no indications that the latest tragedy will do anything to move the needle toward stricter controls at the federal level.

Legislation to expand gun-purchase background checks failed in a Democratic-controlled Senate in 2013 months after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, and the current GOP-controlled Congress has been moving in the other direction, offering bills to expand concealed carry rights and loosen restrictions on gun sound suppressors.

Two Democratic congressmen Monday asked Mr. Ryan to announce that the House will not take up the legislation on sound suppressors, or silencers, which recently advanced through committee as part of a sportsmen’s package.

“It is not enough to simply hold a moment of silence, or place U.S. flags at half-staff; rather we believe that, in the wake of the horrific shootings last evening in Las Vegas, you must clearly state that the House will not seek to make matters worse by passing this legislation,” wrote Rep. John Conyers, ranking member on the judiciary committee, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, ranking member on the natural resources committee.

Liberal pressure groups also vowed to change the debate.

Democracy for America used the Las Vegas shooting in a fundraising letter, saying donations would be used to oust Republicans who oppose gun control.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee also sent out a fundraising letter promising the money will go to politicians who in the wake of the shooting demanded action, braving accusations they were “politicizing” the tragedy.

Gun-rights groups said now wasn’t the time.

“If the gun grabbers want to control something they should control themselves and their mouths. This tragedy was unpreventable,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Andrea Noble contributed to this report.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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