WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – As the nation watched video of car chases and blood soaked workers sobbing in the streets of San Bernardino, Calif., Washington Democrats reacted with a mixed sense of frustration and resignation.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan marked his first official Christmas tree lighting on the Capitol lawn by calling for an opening moment of silence, a leadership duty that’s become commonplace. Ryan implored attendees to “keep the victims and their families in your prayers right now.”
The majority of fellow Republicans stayed cautiously silent on gun-related policy talk, uniformly offering prayers instead.
Full details remain unclear, but the bullet-riddled bodies on TV laid bare the source of injuries: another mass shooting.
Reports trickled in of masked gunmen murdering innocent bystanders in a nondescript office building on a sunny California morning, then escaped suspects and swarming police.
And, yet, 535 members of Congress already know that calls for newer, stricter gun laws will go unanswered.
So they provided statements and sent condolences.
“Gun violence is a crisis of epidemic proportions in our nation,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). She continued, “Congress has a moral responsibility to vote on common sense measures to prevent the daily agony of gun violence in communities across America.”
As news of the San Bernardino murders broke, Congressman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) was on the floor of the House announcing plans to introduce an assault weapon ban.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) invoked the Sandy Hook school massacre in his home state and challenged his colleagues, saying in part, “Not a single senator or member of Congress can go back to their state this weekend and claim they are doing their job.”
“We should never think this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events because it doesn’t happen in other countries,” President Barack Obama added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) tweeted, “The senseless loss of life in San Bernardino defies explanation.”
In the days leading up to San Bernardino, GOP leaders reacted to the recent Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting by calling for a more intense national focus on prevention through mental health care.
Speaker Ryan said Tuesday, “What happened [in Colorado Springs] is appalling, and justice should be swift. Clearly we can do more. And one common denominator in these tragedies is mental illness.”
On Tuesday, the Republican-led House rejected a measure to restrict people on the terror watch list from legally buying firearms in United States.
Congress will be in Washington this week and next. If tradition holds, the two sides will dig in, talking at and over each other until the headlines blow over.
In the meantime, opposing parties are at loggerheads and gun gridlock continues.