It was heartening for the nation to see congressional lawmakers seek comfort in a bipartisan game of baseball on Thursday, after the vicious gunfire attack on some of their own at a practice a day earlier. Unfortunately, the resolute cry from the ball field — “The game will go on” — has a sadder parallel in the Capitol, where any hope for stronger gun safety legislation is quickly yielding to a familiar sense of futility.
“We’re beyond the place where Washington responds to mass shootings,” said Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who led an angry filibuster a year ago demanding more than “unconscionable deafening silence” from Congress after the shock of the Orlando nightclub gun massacre. Similarly frustrated Democrats had staged a protest sit-in in the House, but this time they were muted about renewing the debate over the nation’s gun carnage.
“If we had that debate, it’d end like it always ends,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told Politico. “We’re not going to tell law-abiding people they can’t own a gun because of some nut job,” he added, as if the outsize toll of guns deaths — 30,000-plus a year — is an acceptable trade-off for American citizenship.
“I just don’t get overexcited any more,” said Senator Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who four years ago worked hard for a bipartisan compromise to close loopholes in the law on gun purchases. It was defeated by six votes in the Senate.
So the Capitol game went on with one noticeable change — the strategic decision to postpone a hearing on legislation strongly sought by the gun lobby to end 80-year-old restrictions on possessing gun silencers.
The sudden sound of gunfire is one of the few protections the American public has when shooters are loose. The congressional Republicans and staffers who were able to flee the ball field shooter know this well.
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