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Gun Control Legislation Isn’t Going Anywhere

A police officer stands guard at the front gate of the Washington Naval Yard on Tuesday. Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press / MCT

WASHINGTON — If Sen. Dianne Feinstein had any hopes Monday’s mass shooting at the Navy Yard would breath new life into her effort to pass new gun control legislation, they were dashed early Tuesday morning on the sidewalk outside her hair salon.

“I’m going in to have my hair done this morning, and there’s somebody waiting outside who says, ‘Are you going to try and take away our guns again?’ It’s malevolence … [a] lack of. I guess, care and concern about the survival of the general public so that somebody can have a house full of weapons,” the California Democrat said.

Although gun control activists may hope Monday’s shooting, which left 12 victims dead, will convince some Republicans to help break a filibuster of background check legislation, Feinstein’s interaction is a cold reality check that the politics of the issue haven’t changed.

Indeed, even Feinstein, who over the years has led efforts to ban assault weapons and impose new background checks, was glum.

“I’m not optimistic, right now,” Feinstein said, acknowledging that the partisan divisions haven’t changed. I don’t know when enough is enough. I thought that [after] the Connecticut situation, that people would see it, and rebel against it and say look, we need to do something. [But] even a watered-down background check couldn’t get passed,” she added.

Other Democrats agreed. Several aides acknowledged that the shooting had not, as of Tuesday, moved any Republicans from their opposition to a new round of gun control legislation and predicted unless that happens, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t likely to bring it back to the floor.

“We had legislation that said everybody has to have the same kind of background check that I have to go through, and you have to go through a legitimate gun dealer. And that was blocked. It’s kind of hard to wonder what kind of tragedy it would take,” the Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott agreed that gun control legislation isn’t likely, but said the shooting could prompt a harder look by Congress at the issue of mental illness and gun violence.

“I understand this person suffered from mental illness. Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to take a look at that,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, in the House, prospects for legislation are even less rosy — with Republicans in control there is virtually no chance a bill will see the light of day, although Democrats said they will continue to talk about the issue.

“I think it will bring up debate. Whether it will bring up action is problematic … the past, if the past is prologue, that prologue is not very hopeful,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Tuesday.

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