Democrats are desperate to do something -- anything -- on gun control

Story highlights

  • At least 58 people have died in a mass shooting at a concert on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Democrats have started immediately calling for more gun control after such events

(CNN)The details don't really matter when it comes to mass shootings in the current political climate. The script now is set -- and depressingly familiar.

Gun control opponents offer their "thoughts and prayers," but little in the way of solutions, while advocates bypass bipartisan mourning periods and immediately seize on tragic events to make their case.
For supporters of new federal gun control measures, the time for a calm debate has long since passed. After years of relaxing federal gun laws and multiple failed attempts to pass something -- anything -- that has the lightest whiff of new restrictions, trust and patience are all but gone.
    That's why within hours of the horrible shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 58 dead and more than 500 injured, before it was clear what weapons the gunman used to massacre concertgoers, Hillary Clinton was tweeting about silencers.
    The shooter carried out his rampage from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, looking down on the packed country music festival across Las Vegas Boulevard below. It's impossible to say what effect silencers would have had if the shooter had them. The Washington Post Fact Checker has looked in-depth into the issue. But even without them, the rampage was horrible.
    Regardless, Clinton's comment dovetails with a coming vote in Congress, which would relax the prohibition on silencers for weapons.
    In one tweet, Clinton said now is not the time for politics but then she asked lawmakers to "stand up to the NRA."
    "Our grief isn't enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again."
    But whether or not Democrats and Republicans like it -- and surely they don't -- the gun debate has always been deeply political. The only difference now: the opposing sides have, for the most part, stopped pretending otherwise.
    Gun control advocates in Congress made no apologies for almost immediately using elements of the Las Vegas shooting in an effort to advance their cause.
    Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts was unapologetic, saying he would not take part in any moment of silence for the victims.
    "Now is not a moment for silence; it's a time for action," he said on Twitter.
    Moulton also re-posted a picture of himself carrying a firearm as a soldier, adding a hashtag for #LasVegas. He had first posted the tweet not long after the mass shooting in Orlando by a self-radicalized Muslim man.
    "I know assault rifles. I carried one in Iraq. They have no place on America's streets. #Orlando."
    Sen. Chris Murphy, who became a major advocate for gun control after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his state of Connecticut, used strong language to go after opponents of gun control, calling them cowards and saying Congress needs to "get off its ass."
    "This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren't public policy responses to this epidemic," he said. "There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It's time for Congress to get off its ass and do something."
    Murphy, by the way, engaged in a filibuster over gun control after the Orlando shooting.
    For Democrats and gun control advocates who feel so strongly about gun control, there is no choice and are few options but trying to gum up the workings in Congress to force votes on narrowly tailored measures. After each major shooting event -- the ones listed above, from the last five years, are three of the five worst shootings in modern US history -- there is a period in which advocates push for reform. But there has been little in the way of action to show for it since most Republicans see the issue quite differently.
    But federal gun laws have only been loosened and rolled back over the past 10 years. And the country remains deeply divided on guns, as CNN's Chris Cillizza documented Monday. (If the shooting of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook would not change the mind of America's government on gun laws, it's hard to see how a shooting at a Florida nightclub or a Las Vegas country music festival would).
    And that's part of the reason there is no period of non-political mourning after these events anymore. Despite the very strong feelings on both sides, the gun control debate is beset by torpor.
    Democrats shut down the House floor with a day-long sit-in and broke other house rules on debate not long after the shooting in Orlando last year.
    But their efforts to force a vote (to say nothing of legislative action) in the GOP-controlled chamber fell flat.
    Democrats rejected a Republican proposal to ban the sale of firearms to people on a government watchlist as toothless and conservative Republicans opposed it. In between then and now, President Barack Obama handed over the White House and executive branch to Donald Trump and it seems less likely the Republican President will push for new restrictions as Obama did.
    There are places where Americans broadly agree, according to polling -- like on background checks and the sale of weapons to people on watch lists. But finding the final language is always impossible for lawmakers.
    Trump did not mention gun measures in his brief remarks after the shooting. The motivations of the shooter are not yet clear. When an ISIS affiliate sought to claim credit, the FBI disputed any international involvement in a statement.
    "We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group," the agency said in a statement.
    Trump has in the past been quick to seize on tragedies to push his own agenda, as when he has repeatedly raised the alarm about terror attacks, at times getting ahead of events. Immediately after the Orlando shooting, for instance, when he was a candidate, he was pushing for a ban on Muslims entering the US, even though the shooter had been born in the US.
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    In this case, however, he has been uncharacteristically mum both in his live remarks and on Twitter. It's a stark contrast to as recently as last week, among supporters about what Democrats would do to the Second Amendment if they were in power.