Gun Control Advocates Say Little After Navy Yard Shooting

In the aftermath of this week's shooting rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., there has been no revival of the debate over gun control. In fact, the response from both sides in the debate has been muted. That's very different from what happened after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.

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Now, tragic scenes like these have often been followed by immediate and impassioned debate about the need for new gun control regulations. This week's shooting at the Navy Yard prompted prayers, but so far relatively little in the way of strong calls for new laws. Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The crime scene was still active. The number of fatalities and the names of the victims and the suspects still unconfirmed when the president spoke on Monday.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We are confronting yet another mass shooting and today it happened on a military installation in our nation's capital.

GONYEA: But unlike the days after the deaths of 26 children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the reaction this time, while sorrowful, has been muted. One example, a campaign rally in Virginia's suburbs just outside Washington yesterday, an email from the National Rifle Association urged attendance to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. The headline touted his support of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

The event began with a prayer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And Lord, we also want to lift up and pray for those who have lost loved ones in yesterday's senseless tragedy at the Navy Yard. We ask that you would give...

GONYEA: But over the next hour, during multiple speeches, there was not one mention of gun rights or of the Second Amendment. People in the audience were happy to discuss the issue when asked. Take Dave Dudzinski, a 49-year-old Navy veteran.

DAVE DUDZINSKI: It is in the Constitution. It is our Second Amendment right.

GONYEA: As for the alleged shooter in Washington, Dudzinski said this.

DUDZINSKI: We had a fellow who had some emotional issues. He fell between the cracks, but restricting people and what kind of firearm they can own and things like that, you start getting into a very slippery slope.

GONYEA: Such comments were typical in substance and in their low-key tone. That's a common pattern for gun rights supporters in the wake of a shooting. What is somewhat unusual is how low-key gun control advocates have been so far. Matt Bennett is with the D.C.-based think tank called Third Way, which backs expanded regulation on gun ownership and purchases.

He suggests that the failure to enact new federal legislation, even after the horrors of Newtown, gives the movement pause.

MATT BENNETT: I think there's a sense of resignation that has taken hold. People in our community believe that these types of tragedies are going to continue and some of them may spur some progress, but it's a very, very long slog to get to new federal gun safety laws.

GONYEA: Gun control activists are planning a rally at the capital tomorrow. The White House briefing room is one place where the discussion has not been muted. Yesterday afternoon, press secretary Jay Carney was peppered with questions about the latest rampage and about what the president will do.

JAY CARNEY: When people ask, okay, now what do we do in the wake of another mass shooting, I think that question is appropriately asked not just here, but in Congress.

GONYEA: Carney blamed Republicans for derailing legislation after Newtown. His frustration was evident as he added, quote: "That's the world we live in." Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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