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Washington Navy Yard shootings revive gun-control efforts

Two DC Metro Police officers put their gear

Two DC Metro Police officers put their gear up as they respond to a reported shooting at an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard (Sept. 16, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- The Navy Yard rampage prompted gun control groups Tuesday to call on Congress to revive the Newtown school-shooting bill expanding background checks that stalled in the Senate just five months ago.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that, while he agrees it's time to resume the debate on gun violence, he doesn't have the votes to pass a bill.

"We're going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we've got to have the votes first. We don't have the votes," he said.

The Navy Yard shootings "will renew calls for Congress to take action on bills if for no other reason than it took place less than a mile from the Capitol. It's pretty hard to ignore," said Jim Kessler of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and other groups called for Congress to act on the compromise gun bill. And members of the Newton Action Alliance, created by parents of victims of the school shooting, lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The call for legislative action was complicated, however, by the developing profile of the suspected shooter, Aaron Alexis, who the FBI said acted alone.

And it was set back by the FBI's determination that Alexis had used a shotgun that a gun store says he purchased legally, not a semiautomatic AR-15.

"We're still finding out about this guy. We're still at the fact-finding stage," Kessler said.

Lawmakers who fought for the bill repeated calls for action.

But they indicated they may not yet be ready for another battle this fall against the powerful National Rifle Association and its congressional allies, most of them Republicans.

Just last week, the NRA helped recall two Democratic Colorado state senators who voted for a gun-control bill.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

In April, propelled by the shock of a gunman killing 20 children and six adults in December in Newtown, Conn., 54 senators voted for the bipartisan compromise bill.

But a Republican filibuster required 60 votes for passage.

And a similar measure in the GOP-controlled House did not even get a vote.

New York Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand were key sponsors of the bill, and both issued statements saying they "hope" Congress will act soon.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) called on House Republicans "to allow a vote."

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) called for tightening background checks for guns and security clearances.

Symptomatic of other mass shootings or even everyday shootings, she said, "when guns are readily accessible and when our monitoring system isn't as strong as it should be, disaster looms."

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said it's up to groups such as his to marshal America's broad backing for a gun bill to overcome NRA lobbying.

He said there are 54 votes for it in the Senate, six shy of what's needed, and 185 bill co-sponsors in the House, 33 short of a majority.

"The bill should come up when the votes are there," Gross said. "If we can get the Senate votes there before the end of this session, there will be a vote. If we can't, there won't."


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