Gun control state of play: Strong words, little action in Congress

Kimmel gives an emotional plea to lawmakers
Kimmel gives an emotional plea to lawmakers

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Kimmel gives an emotional plea to lawmakers 01:43

Story highlights

  • Democrats were pessimistic on gun control options in a GOP Congress
  • Both sides are dug in and the prospects for change are nearly non-existent

(CNN)Republican and Democratic members were reeling Monday in the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left at least 59 people dead and hundreds injured.

But on Capitol Hill, the sense that something can be done to stop future shootings was almost non-existent.
    Even Democrats who have been central to past efforts to overhaul the country's gun laws offered little hope that they would be able to forge a bipartisan solution in a Republican-controlled Congress.

    What are Democrats are saying?

    CNN's Ashley Killough caught up with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and author of an assault weapons ban in the mid-1990s, and she spoke about the prospects -- or lack thereof -- for gun reforms in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history.
    While Feinstein described the shooting as "extraordinary," "extreme" and "heartbreaking," she offered little to no optimism that things would change.
    "You know, I thought Sandy Hook would. I thought Columbine would. I thought 101 California would," she said, referring to a 1993 San Francisco shooting that left nine dead. "None of that did."
    Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who was central to fighting for universal background checks after Sandy Hook, has said he wants to continue fighting for background checks.
    "Background checks still (are) the most likely piece of legislation to get passed through Congress because it enjoys widespread public approval and it frankly is probably most dispositive on the amount of gun violence that happens every day across this country," he said.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday she wants Speaker Paul Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence.

    So Democrats want to see movement. What should we expect?

    This Congress is controlled by Republicans and that matters here. Remember, even when Democrats had control of the Senate after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, they still could not pass a bill to ensure every gun purchased in this country underwent a background check. That had some of their own red-state members voting against that.
    In a lot of ways, Monday was a bizarre day on Capitol Hill. Concerned citizens might ask the questions about what should happen after Vegas, but congressional observers know how senators are going to answer the questions based on the "R" or "D" behind their names. Both sides are very dug in here and the prospects for change are virtually non-existent.

    What about the gun suppressor bill?

    The "Hearing Protection Act," which aims to loosen rules around gun silencers, was added to a broader bill called the "Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act" that passed through committee last month.
    A senior House GOP leadership aide told CNN that there are "unresolved issues with the larger package and it is not on the schedule." This aide wouldn't say when it might come up for a full House vote, but said until the broader issues are taken care of there was no move to bring it up for a vote.
    Ryan said Tuesday morning the SHARE Act is not scheduled for a vote on the House floor.
    "That bill is not scheduled right now. I don't know when it will be scheduled," Ryan said at his news conference, adding that the present focus is on the budget and tax reform.
    Asked about what Congress can do to prevent shootings in the wake of Las Vegas, the speaker focused on mental health.
    "It is important as we see the dust settle and see what is behind these tragedies that mental health is a critical ingredient," the Wisconsin Republican said.
    South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan, the lead sponsor of the bill, took issue with how people are characterizing the bill, saying, "nothing is silent about it. Even a 22 long rifle, one of the smallest calibers, isn't silent. It's about the same decibel level as a jackhammer. Nobody would say a jackhammer is silent."
    He said to those saying that the bill would make it harder for law enforcement to hear gunfire in the case of a mass shooting, "get out of the theaters, get away from James Bond because what Hollywood depicts and reality are two different things."
    Duncan said he has not talked to top GOP leaders personally about when the House would consider the bill, but said he anticipated the bill would be on the floor next week and his staff believed it would come up sometime this month.