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Las Vegas Shooting Reignites Gun Debate on Capitol Hill

Members offer prayers and condolences to victims and families, tributes to police and first responders

People scramble for shelter at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after a gunman opened fire, leaving at least 50 people dead and more than 2oo wounded. (David Becker/Getty Images)
People scramble for shelter at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after a gunman opened fire, leaving at least 50 people dead and more than 2oo wounded. (David Becker/Getty Images)

Democratic lawmakers on Monday morning renewed their pleas for legislative action to restrict access to firearms after a gunman unleashed a storm of bullets on concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday night.

At least 58 people were killed, officials said. Multiple media outlets have reported that more than 500 people were taken to local hospitals for treatment in what is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Nowhere but America do horrific large-scale mass shootings happen with this degree of regularity,” Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said in a statement Monday.

The Connecticut Democrat has been the most vociferous advocate for gun control in Congress since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in his home state.

“This must stop,” Murphy said. “It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”

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“It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” he said.

His fellow Connecticut Democrat, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, expressed similar outrage Monday at Congress’ inability to pass gun control legislation.

It has been little more than a year since the deadly attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which had been the largest mass shooting in American history before Sunday’s events, Blumenthal noted in a statement.

“In the interim, thousands more have been lost to the daily, ruthless toll of gun violence. Still, Congress refuses to act,” he said.

“I am more than frustrated, I am furious,” the senator added.

Witnesses to the shooting reported that it sounded like the gunman, firing from a hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, used an automatic weapon to rake the audience with bullets at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a three-day country music event.

The shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, killed himself around midnight, Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told reporters. Paddock is believed to be the lone gunman. He had “in excess of 10 rifles,” Lombardo said.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer tweeted a link to his “comprehensive plan” to improve gun safety, entitled “Enough Is Enough.”

“‘Thoughts and prayers’ will not stop future tragedy,” the Oregon Democrat said in a statement. “My hope is that sanity will prevail, and Republican leadership in Congress will muster up the courage to act.”

Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts called for the government to ban assault weapons.

“These are weapons of war and should be used in combat, not in our communities,” he tweeted.

Markey later decried the gun lobby’s influence in Washington, specifically that of the National Rifle Association.

“Once and for all, we need to make NRA stand for ‘Not Relevant Anymore’ in American politics,” he said.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton was one of the first lawmakers to call for legislative action Monday. He tweeted that he was “praying Congress will have the courage to do more than stand in silence to commemorate them.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey, both Democrats, echoed those thoughts on Twitter.

“Thoughts and prayers are simply not enough,” Gillibrand tweeted. “We must act to prevent this from happening again.”

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people should do nothing,” Booker wrote, repeating a quote often attributed to the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke.

“It is not enough to ask how could someone do this,” he added. “We must also ask ourselves how can I prevent something like this from happening again.”

Republicans — and many of their Democratic colleagues — mostly stuck to familiar lines, thanking first-response teams and offering some variant of thoughts and prayers to the victims of the attack and their families.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin has ordered flags over the United States Capitol to be lowered to half-staff in memory of the victims.

Republican Sen. Dean Heller, Nevada’s senior senator, called the shooting a “senseless, horrifying act of violence.”

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto thanked the first responders at the scene.

So did Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada’s 3rd District, which includes areas south of Las Vegas.

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, whose 4th District in Nevada comprises parts of Las Vegas, said he was “praying for everyone’s safety.”

Later, Kihuen released a statement in which he urged the citizens of Las Vegas to “closely follow instructions and information” from authorities there as the investigation unfolds.

Rep. Dina Titus of the 1st District, which takes up most of Las Vegas, said her city is “a resilient and benevolent town that will not be intimidated by acts of violence.”

Rep. Mark Amodei of the 2nd District called Sunday’s events an “unfathomable evil.”

Scores of lawmakers from outside Nevada scrambled to offer their thoughts, too:

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