Senators renew call for gun control after Orlando shooting

On Sunday afternoon, President Obama addressed the nation for the 20th time following a shooting incident during his White House tenure. This time, it was to discuss the horrific slaughter at a popular Orlando gay club, where a gunman opened fire early Sunday morning and killed at least 50 people, injuring more. The death toll made it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

The president explained how it was done: "The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle."

The massacre, he said, served as a "further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub."

"We have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be," the president urged. "And to actively do nothing is a decision as well."

Since news broke of the shooting, some members of Congress have pushed to have that same gut-wrenching conversation once more, even as stricter gun control regulations face an uphill battle in both chambers.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a vocal gun reform advocate especially following the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in his home state, slammed his colleagues for their "total unconscionable deafening silence" on gun control.

"I know the pain and sadness that has brought too many communities - Newtown, Oregon, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Orlando - to their knees, and I can only hope that America's leaders will do something to prevent another community from being added to the list," Murphy said in a statement Sunday. "Congress has become complicit in these murders by its total, unconscionable deafening silence."

"This doesn't have to happen," he said, "but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing -- again."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's other Democratic senator, charged that "prayers and platitudes are insufficient" as a response.

"The American public is beseeching us to act on commonsense, sensible gun violence prevention measures," Blumenthal said in a statement. "And we must heed that call."

Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania also announced Sunday that he would put forth a bill this week that would ban anyone from owning a gun who had previously been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime. Casey's bill, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would modify current federal law, which already prohibits people with felony convictions from buying or owning a gun.

Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Florida's 21st district, directed a specific message to House Speaker Paul Ryan after the Orlando shooting, pushing to "close the loophole that lets people on the terror watch list buy assault rifles."


The suspected shooter, Omar S. Mateen, had been on law enforcement radars for several years, according to FBI sources. Federal officials investigated him in 2013 for possible ties to terrorism and again in 2014 for ties he may have had to a known suicide bomber.

Despite those instances, the suspect had legally purchased a handgun and a "long gun" within the past week without triggering any alarm bells. Mateen, a U.S. citizen who was born in New York to Afghan parents, had a concealed carry permit in the state of Florida.

In contrast, Republicans, like presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, focused not on gun control but on the threat of "radical Islamic terrorism" and measures to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.:

Some senators also renewed calls for stronger anti-terrorism efforts, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.

"Confronting the threat of violent homegrown ‎radicalization is one of the greatest counterterrorism challenges our law enforcement and intelligence community faces," said Rubio, who was recently a Republican presidential candidate. "‎We must do more at every level of government and within our own communities to identify and mitigate this cancer on our free society and prevent further loss of innocent life."