The White House on Monday rebuffed attempts to restart the gun control debate after Sunday’s deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying now is not the time for such a discussion.
Pressed on whether President Donald Trump and his administration felt the mass shooting that claimed the lives of at least 59 and injured more than 500 — the deadliest in modern U.S. history — should be treated as an opportunity for a policy discussion on preventing gun violence, Sanders urged patience.
“Today is more, again, like I said, a day of reflection, a day of mourning, a day of gratefulness for those that were saved,” Sanders said during the White House press briefing. “I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment. Certainly, I think there’s a time for that to happen.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly urged patience while addressing the Senate chamber on Monday, sidestepping calls from some of his Democratic colleagues to immediately engage in a broader policy debate.
McConnell said that while many questions lingered surrounding Sunday’s shooting, “what is clear now is that this is a moment for national mourning and prayer.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was more pointed, saying that “politicizing” the Sunday shooting was “beyond disgusting.”
“Unfortunately I think some of the statements that have been made are fairly predicable,” Cornyn said Monday.
The response from the White House and congressional Republicans was a typical refrain that has emerged after past mass shootings that have rattled the nation in recent years.
It’s not clear that the body count in the Las Vegas shooting will change the tenor of the gun debate, especially with Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, but that didn’t stop Democrats from quickly calling for action — some in blunt terms.
The starkest language came from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who blasted legislative inaction on gun violence in a statement released Monday, saying: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.” He later announced that he planned to introduce legislation to strengthen background checks on gun purchases.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) noted in his statement that it had been just over a year since a gunman killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, the shooting that previously was the deadliest in modern U.S. history. He said that Congress’s inaction had left him “more than frustrated, I am furious.”
Decrying the lack of government response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to put the background check bill to a vote on the House floor, while also calling for a select committee to be set up to provide recommendations to lawmakers on ways to curb gun violence.
Sanders said she agreed with Murphy that Congress should “get up and do something,” but added that she didn’t necessarily agree with the Democrats’ proposed plan of action.
And while the press secretary did not say whether the president would oppose the renewed push for increased background checks on gun buyers, she said Trump “has been clear that he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.”
Sanders, during the briefing, warned against drafting “laws that won’t create or stop these type of [shootings] from happening.”
The White House spokeswoman also rebuffed calls by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for political leaders to “stand up to the NRA” in the wake of the violent shooting, stressing that more facts surrounding the motive of the killings needed to emerge.
“This isn’t a time for us to go after individuals or organizations. I think that we can have those policy conversations, but today is not that day,” she said.
Sanders also deflected Clinton’s charges against the National Rifle Association, saying that “the only person with blood on their hands is that of the shooter.”
Despite receiving continued backing from the White House, the NRA opted to pull a week’s worth of television advertising in Virginia, where it is hoping to tip the scales in favor of several pro-gun Republican candidates, including gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, attorney general nominee John Adams and lieutenant governor nominee Jill Vogel. The group will remain dark in the state until Oct. 10.
The shooting also blunted the prospects of a controversial bill to loosen restrictions on purchasing gun silencers, according to GOP sources. Another bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns with them to another state could also be impacted by the attack.
Trump himself had not yet weighed in by late Monday on the prospect of new gun measures. But overall, he gave a more measured response to the tragedy in Nevada than after the Pulse club shooting in Orlando over a year prior, when he boasted on Twitter that he was “right on radical Islamic terrorism” after it was reported the shooter had ties to the Islamic State terrorist organization.
Sanders, asked about the contrasting reactions, said, “There’s a difference between being a candidate and being the president.”
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