Democrats urge gun laws; Republicans silent

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said in a statement on Monday: \"The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers.” Photo: Reuters
House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said in a statement on Monday: "The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers.” Photo: Reuters

Sunday's (local time) massacre in Las Vegas spurred a ritual-like response from US politicians following the mass shootings that have left a trail of victims across the country: Democrats renewed demands for tougher gun laws while Republicans offered up prayers but showed no signs of supporting such legislation.

One day after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, which left at least 59 people dead and over 500 injured, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said in a statement on Monday: "The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences and in our prayers.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also a Republican, led his chamber in a moment of silence following the "devastating" massacre and urged "national mourning" and prayer.

Democrats were not falling in line.

"Thoughts & prayers are NOT enough. Not when more moms & dads will bury kids this week, & more sons & daughters will grow up without parents," Senator Elizabeth Warren said in a morning tweet.

Senator Chris Murphy, whose home state of Connecticut was the scene of a mass shooting in 2012 that killed 20 6-year-olds and six adults, was blunter.

"It's time for Congress to get off its a** and do something," Murphy said in a statement.

Murphy said he would introduce a new background check bill and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi also urged passage of legislation toughening checks on gun sales.

The Connecticut tragedy sparked serious negotiations in Congress on tighter gun laws, including tougher background checks for gun buyers. But the effort failed in 2013 amid strong opposition from gun groups such as the National Rifle Association.

Subsequent mass shootings have brought a similar call for Congress to act on tougher gun laws, only to see Republicans and some Democrats balk at what they see as infringements on the right to bear arms embedded in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

A Glock 22 pistol at the Rocky Mountain Guns and Ammo store in Parker, Colorado.  REUTERS/Shannon...
"It's time for Congress to get off its a** and do something," Senator Murphy said in a statement. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, asked whether President Donald Trump might now favor tighter gun laws, told reporters: "I think that's something that we can talk about in the coming days and see what that looks like moving forward." She said the administration would not want laws created that would fail to "stop these types of things from happening."

Nevada's two US senators, Republican Dean Heller and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, on Monday both issued statements offering prayers to victims and thanks to first responders, but neither mentioned anything about gun laws.

SENATE DEMOCRATS TAKE FLOOR ON GUNS

Ryan, when asked in an interview last month with the Associated Press about steps to diminish gun violence, said many mass shootings were at the hands of people with mental illnesses and said Congress needed to ensure that federal funds were available to address such illnesses.

"But if you’re saying that this Republican Congress is going to infringe upon Second Amendment rights, we're not going to do that," he said.

The House, however, recently passed a massive funding bill for next year that would cut $306 million from the government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

Democrats on Monday wrote to Ryan asking that he stop from further consideration a bill before the House that would make it easier to buy gun silencers, something that gun control advocates oppose. Supporters argue the bill would protect more gun users from damage to their hearing.

Senate Democrats were holding the floor into the evening on Monday to talk about the Las Vegas massacre and the need for gun controls.

One California politician offered another possible path forward. Gavin Newsom, the state's current lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor in the 2018 election, suggested that California act on its own.

"We are heartbroken that we can’t pass commonsense gun laws in our nation," Newsom said in a statement. "If the Republican leadership of Congress and this president continue with their moral and intellectual abandon, California has and must continue to chart the path of rationality."

California has already acted on gun control, with voters last November approving a proposition outlawing possession of ammo magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

As has been the case following past mass shootings in the United States, the Las Vegas murders raised expectations of brisk gun sales by people who fear that gun control laws will be become stricter, driving up the shares of gun makers.

American country music stars expressed horror after Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas turned a three-day open-air festival into a scene of carnage, and one said it forced him to change his opposition to gun control.

The Route91 Harvest festival, promoted as a "three day neon sleepover," attracted fans from across the United States to hear country's biggest stars, including Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Sam Hunt.

Caleb Keeter, a guitarist with the Josh Abbott Band, which played the festival earlier on Sunday, said he had been a lifelong supporter of the right to bear arms "until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was."

"We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realise it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it," Keeter said on Twitter.

Aldean, the Sunday night headliner, had just taken the stage when bursts of gunfire rang out, sending thousands of people diving for cover.

"Tonight has been beyond horrific," Aldean (40) who was unharmed, said on Instagram. "It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."

Singer Jake Owen, who performed minutes before Aldean, said he witnessed "the most unimaginable event."

"Shots were ringing off the stage rigging and road cases. No one knew where to go," Owen tweeted.

Owen told Fox News in an interview early on Monday, "This isn't what America is supposed to look like.

Chris Young, a country singer who was at the festival on Sunday but not playing, said on Twitter that he "spent I don't know how long on the floor of a trailer behind the stage" listening to the gunfire.

"I'm literally shaking still," Young added.

Country newcomer Kane Brown, 23, who performed earlier on Sunday, tweeted, "This world is sick."

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