Senate Remains at a Standstill Over Gun Legislation

Sep 17, 2013 4:45pm

One day after the deadly shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., lawmakers on Capitol Hill said efforts to reignite the fight for new gun legislation are at a standstill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today the Navy Yard massacre would reopen a conversation about gun control legislation, but he bluntly acknowledged that he believes little has changed since April when a background check proposal failed in the Senate.

“We don’t have the votes,” Reid told reporters in the Capitol.

Even so, he said he still intended to schedule a new gun debate in the Senate, hoping that some lawmakers could be persuaded.

Several senators said they are open to strengthening mental health provisions for people who buy guns, but Reid said the opposition remains to expanding background checks. And background checks, he said, remained an essential part of any gun safety bill.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who sponsored the background check bill with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., last April, said he was unsure if the gun provision would make it back to the Senate floor and echoed Reid’s sentiment about the need to gather more votes.

“We just have to have the support for it, have to get support,” Manchin told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he hoped the mass shooting in the nation’s capital would change the course of gun legislation in Congress.

“God forbid we go on with business as usual and not understand what happened yesterday. What happened yesterday brings into question some important values in America,” Durbin said on the Senate floor. “If we value our right for ourselves and our families and our children to be safe, if we value this Constitution, if we value the right of every American to enjoy their liberties with reasonable limitations, then we need to return to issues that are of importance.”

Against this backdrop of skepticism among some lawmakers, gun control advocates, including those who have lost family and friends to gun violence, descended upon Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers on enacting gun legislation.

Joined by nearly 90 advocates, the Newtown Action Alliance, an organization formed after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, went door to door to congressional offices, meeting with lawmakers and their staff to discuss the need for universal background checks.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their daughter Jessica Ghawi, 24, in the massacre at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater, returned to Capitol Hill today for the first time since the background check bill failed last April.

“It’s frustrating. When you’re having a mass shooting every four months in America and our leaders are doing little to nothing, that’s frustrating,” Sandy Phillips told ABC News. “We’re talking lives. We’re talking about lives being taken.”

“It’s frustrating to see so many people become more involved in this and the lawmakers not taking a stand, not putting the lives of their constituents ahead of the special interests,” Lonnie Phillips said.

The Phillips family and other advocates will be in Washington throughout the week to make the case for stricter gun laws, speaking to any members of Congress who are willing to listen.

On Wednesday, Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., will link up with advocates for a news conference, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns will hold a rally Thursday to renew the push for gun control legislation.

“It just makes you more determined,” Sandy Phillips said.

The advocates also faced the harsh reality of lobbying for stricter gun control in Congress, where there is still little new support for background check legislation.

Sandy Phillips said a plea for support for gun legislation from her family and another family of an Aurora theater shooting fell on deaf ears during a meeting with the chief of staff to Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

“The congressman will not support the bill,” she told ABC News. “We were told flat out he will not.”

“It was frustrating but that’s politics,” she added. “There’s a lot of misinformation and there’s a lot of hesitation that goes along with what we want to accomplish.”

 

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