Sen. Chris Coons "not optimistic" Congress will act on guns after Florida shooting

Sen. Chris Coons said he is "not optimistic" Congress will take any actions on gun control, after the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting that left 17 people dead last week. 

The Delaware Democrat said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he doesn't have high hopes that Congress will do anything to restrict gun access, after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly used an AR-15 rifle to gun down his former classmates. CBS News' Nancy Cordes asked Coons if it is possible any legislation could have prevented the tragedy.

"Possible? Yes. Likely that that action will be taken in this Congress? No," Coons said. "And I have to say, Nancy, having heard the voices of other teenagers from Parkland whose high school classmates were gunned down, it is heartbreaking. I am heartsick over the fact that we in Congress have failed to act to protect our teenagers, to protect schools and churches, to protect America's safe spaces from the scourge of gun violence."

Coons said there are a number of bipartisan proposals that would address gaps in the current background check system.

"There are things we should do to make it harder for people with mental health problems, people who are convicted felons, people who have domestic violence convictions, from easily getting guns," Coons said. "There are bipartisan bills in this Congress, and the last one, that have not been taken up and acted on."

Coons blamed Republicans for the failure of bipartisan legislation limiting "bump stocks," a gun enhancement used by the Las Vegas shooter in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history in October. The bill has yet to receive a floor vote in either chamber of Congress. Cordes asked why the Democratic Party hasn't "kept the heat on" when it comes to bump stocks. 

"There have been efforts," Coons said. "But let's be blunt. One party controls the floor in the Senate and the House. The Republicans determine what's going to get a vote."

Coons said he's "usually a very optimistic person," but not when it comes to gun control -- especially after Congress' failure to approve bipartisan legislation on immigration last week. 

"I am not optimistic that until there is real action by the American public to demand change in Congress, that we're going to see real action to confront gun violence out of this Congress," Coons said. 

Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also commented on the surprise announcement of charges against 13 Russians brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The defendants are accused of carrying out a massive disinformation campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election. 

The indictment did not allege the Russians' interference influenced the results of the election, but Coons said it's hard to say. 

"It's hard to say that this didn't affect the outcome," Coons said. "It was an exceptionally close election."

Coons said Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue to meddle in U.S. affairs until he is stopped. Coons emphasized that the president should use his authority to impose additional sanctions against Russia. 

"To me, the most maddening question is, why is President Trump failing to act to protect our democracy when there is indisputable proof now that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections?" Coons said.