Watch CBS News

Republicans in Congress show little willingness to pass more gun restrictions after Nashville shooting

The passage of additional gun restrictions on Capitol Hill appears to be unlikely, after a 28-year-old shooter killed three 9-year-olds and three adults at a private Christian grade school in Nashville.

The suspected shooter had no criminal background and was able to legally purchase seven guns from five local gun stores, according to Nashville Police Chief John Drake. The shooter was armed with two assault-style weapons and a handgun, authorities said. 

Congress was able to enact a law last year that enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21 and added funding for mental health services and school security, but Democrats say that wasn't enough. President Joe Biden on Monday and Tuesday urged Congress to pass legislation banning assault-style weapons — which Congress couldn't do even when Democrats controlled both chambers in 2021 and 2022.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black, in his opening prayer Tuesday called on senators to do more than offer their sympathies: "When babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers," and he warned, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing."

Throughout the day Tuesday, GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ignored questions from reporters about the Nashville shooting or the possibility of more gun legislation, and by Tuesday afternoon had issued no statement about the mass shooting or the people killed.

Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican who represents the Knoxville area, said Congress isn't going to fix the problems that led to Monday's shooting. 

"We can pass all the laws we want," Burchett told CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns on CBS News' "Red and Blue" Tuesday. "It was already in a gun-free zone. We do that all the time up here — we pass laws, and then they really have no effect. You've got to deal with what's at the heart of this. It's evil, some even would say demon possession, even, but go further, we've got a mental health crisis in this country." 

Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty, the junior senator from Tennessee, said he's focused on the families of the victims, not the "politics" of the matter.

Asked Tuesday about an assault weapons ban, Hagerty replied, "I'm certain that politics will waive into everything, but right now I'm not focused on the politics of the situation. I'm focused on the families and the victims."

Sen. John Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said it's too soon for any movement on gun legislation, such as universal background checks.

"It's premature," Thune told reporters Tuesday. "There's an ongoing investigation, and I think we need to let the facts come out."

Still, not all Republicans are resistant to the possibility of more gun control laws. 

"I don't know if there's much space to do more, but I'll certainly look and see," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. 

Graham said he wouldn't vote for an assault weapons ban, adding that if Democrats think that's the solution, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer should to bring it to the floor.

"If you had an assault weapons ban, I wouldn't vote for it, but bring it up, if you think that's the fix," he said. "You know, Senator Schumer's in charge. Do you think that fixes the problem? Bring it up. Let's vote. I'm not afraid to vote."

Caitlin Huey-Burns, Rebecca Kaplan, Alan He and Jack Turman contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.