Gun Control Talk Fizzles after Navy Yard Shootings


Barack Obama

By Becky Hogan

On Sunday, President Barack Obama vowed to push ahead with tougher gun laws in the wake of the Navy Yard massacre and recent shootings in Chicago.

Cracking down on background checks for guns has been a priority of the president’s second-term domestic agenda, but it’s seen little momentum since a bill expanding background checks failed in the Senate earlier this year.

Addressing a memorial gathering in remembrance of Navy Yard victims on Sunday, the President said that he senses “a creeping resignation” among Americans that shootings like the Washington Navy Yard massacre “is somehow the new normal.” He said “it ought to be a shock to us all” and should move Americans to demand “a common sense” balance between gun rights and gun control.

But the fatal shootings of a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard this month haven’t moved the needle on gun control in the Senate–and Democrats who previously supported the legislation don’t want another failed effort on the issue.

The Senate’s bi-partisan proposal to bolster background checks for gun purchases failed in April. And if it returned to the floor today, it would likely fail again. There still aren’t enough votes–60 to avoid a filibuster–for the background check legislation sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey.

News data shows how much the the issue has diminished in the media recently, even in the wake of the Navy Yard shootings.  Media coverage for both national and Beltway news on the issue was at its peak during January and February following the fatal Sandy Hook shooting in Newton, Connecticut.  After the Senate bill on background checks failed in April, media coverage on the issue has come to a screeching halt.

Gun Control Media Coverage

Even more telling is how much Beltway news coverage has stayed quiet on the issue–signaling that lawmakers in Congress aren’t moving on a gun control measure anytime soon. September saw a slight uptick in national media coverage, though much of the coverage has been due to the implications of the gun fight in Colorado.  Colorado  voters recalled Senate President John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron over their votes on gun reform, replacing them with Republicans.

Anti-gun advocates are asking why killings at a military installation so close  to the Capitol aren’t prompting lawmakers to rethink gun legislation. But the simple answer is politics.

Democrats want to protect vulnerable incumbents in states like Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina and Louisiana where voters favor more gun-friendly policies.

Manchin has said recently he won’t bring back his expanded background checks bill in the wake of the Navy Yard massacre.

Even the president’s appeal to the nation shows that he’s not throwing down his own political chips just yet–he’s appealing to the nation to demand such measures.

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