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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Even after Las Vegas massacre, US Congress unlikely to act on gun violence

Democrats urge "common sense legislation" but Republicans respond only with sympathy and silence

A candlelight vigil on the Las Vegas strip on October 2, 2017, for the victims of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival. Politicians have so far offered condolences and sympathy but little hope of changing gun laws. Chris Wattie / Reuters
A candlelight vigil on the Las Vegas strip on October 2, 2017, for the victims of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival. Politicians have so far offered condolences and sympathy but little hope of changing gun laws. Chris Wattie / Reuters

In the last 72 hours, the Gun Violence Archive has documented 242 shooting incidents and 153 gun deaths in the US, including the 59 killed and 527 injured in the Las Vegas massacre. Yet, despite the public outcry and the donations of blood and money those affected, stricter gun legislation is unlikely to result from the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

As more details emerge about the shooter, Stephen Paddock, the 42 guns he owned and the 23 he brought into his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay, the public debate on gun control reached a fervour not seen since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Since the Republicans control both chambers in Congress and Donald Trump’s strong defence of the powerful gun lobby, it is likely that the status quo will continue or even that gun restrictions will ease once the storm settles.

Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, minority leader in the House of Representatives, wrote to the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, calling for the appointment of a bipartisan committee to come up with recommendations on how to curb gun violence and enact what she termed "common sense legislation” and to “take long overdue action to ensure that no other family is forced to endure such an unimaginable tragedy.”

But beyond expressions of sympathy, the only response was silence. Mr Ryan did not even answer Ms Pelosi's plea, but released a statement saying, “The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers.”

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell urged everyone to focus on the tragedy itself, rather than gun safety measures, saying, “What is clear now is that this is a moment for national mourning and prayer."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders dismissed the idea of drafting new gun legislation.

“Laws won't create or stop these type of [mass killings] from happening," she said. The National Rifle Association itself maintained silence on Twitter, and Mr Trump, a strong backer of the group did not mention gun violence in his statement on Monday. Addressing the NRA back in April, Mr Trump declared, “The eight-year assault [Obama years] on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to an end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House."

But the deadliest shooting ever seems to have affected local elections.According to The Washington Post, the NRA delayed airing advertisements in support of Ed Gillespie, the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia in the election on November 7.

In Congress, the shooting has stymied any prospect of a bill to loosen restrictions on purchasing gun silencers, according to Politico. Republican sources also believe another bill, allowing people with a permit to carry concealed weapons to take their guns into another state, could also wither on the vine.

A Pew poll conducted last spring found 83 per cent of Americans view gun violence as “a big problem." But they remain divided on how to address the issue. nearly half - 47 per cent of responders - said owning a gun is critical to their sense of freedom. They also agreed there would be fewer mass shootings if there were more restrictions on purchasing guns, while 39 per cent said it will make no difference.

Last February Mr Trump repealed rules put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to block gun sales to people with mental illness. The US President will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.