Despite massacres, little appetite among Republicans for gun control

The U.S. has been rocked by back-to-back gun massacres, but top Republicans have given little indication that they plan to push any gun control measures.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered his thoughts and prayers for the victims of the latest shooting in a speech Wednesday, but did not mention any efforts to curb gun violence.

“The entire nation’s hearts are broken for the victims for their families,” he said. “Words simply fail.”

But words seem to be the only response for now.

Asked about the prospects for any gun-related measures, McConnell’s top deputy, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told CNN on Wednesday, “That’s a conversation for another day.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, at his desk in the Senate, looks discomfited.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks on the Senate floor on Wednesday. (Senate Television via AP)

And even as a handful of Republicans announced they would not be attending Friday’s NRA conference in Houston, halfway across the state from the site of the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, top names like former President Donald Trump announced they would still attend. (A spokeswoman for one of the planned attendees, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he had dropped out before the shooting.)

“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship. That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas and at the NRA convention,” Trump posted in a message on his social media site, Truth Social.

Guns are banned from the hall where Trump will be speaking during the NRA convention, and the former president will also be protected by a heavy coterie of Secret Service agents.

After the shooting on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who’s also slated to attend the NRA convention, told reporters that gun control legislation “doesn’t work.”

“It’s not effective,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t prevent crime.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who could lose control of the Senate in November, said Wednesday, “We are going to vote on gun legislation.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer points his finger as he delivers an argument.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks on the Senate floor on Wednesday. (Senate Television via AP)

In order to advance any gun control measure, Democrats and a small number of moderate Republicans would have to muster 60 votes in the Senate to clear a likely filibuster of any gun measure — or they would have to eliminate the filibuster.

Both options seem highly unlikely in a Senate split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. But after the latest tragedy, in which the suspect targeted elementary school children, Democrats sense a growing urgency to take action.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has been notoriously press-averse after building a brand for herself by holding up top Democratic priorities including voting rights legislation, engaged reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to say she was looking for a compromise measure with moderate Republican senators.

And the onetime Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke, who is running for Texas governor, confronted Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday afternoon at a press conference about the shooting.

“It’s on you,” O’Rourke said, pointing at Abbott, before being pushed away by law enforcement.