Anyone wondering whether Monday’s shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard would alter the nation’s gun control debate had only to listen to what their elected leaders did not say.
President Obama, speaking on Monday as the breadth of the carnage became apparent, rued the nation’s repetitive gun slayings but did not mention the sort of restrictions that he proposed — and that have gone nowhere — after December’s massacre in Newtown, Conn. Then he dove into a speech on the economy and laid into Republicans for their threats to shut down the government in coming weeks.
On Tuesday, the Senate’s Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, opened speeches on the floor of the Senate chamber with an echoing litany of praise for the military and first responders and well wishes for the wounded and the families of the dead. No legislative remedy was suggested by either man. Reid segued abruptly to a defense of the Affordable Care Act — the nation’s new healthcare law — and excoriated Republicans for persisting in their efforts to strip its funding.
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was headed to a Beretta plant in Maryland, next door to Washington, where he planned to tout Texas as a business destination — a long-planned visit that Monday’s events made somewhat uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to cancel.
Indeed, it recalled a trip Perry made this year to Connecticut gun manufacturers chafing at the state’s post-Newtown restrictions, much as Maryland supporters of gun rights are upset at new limits there. In both places, he was rolling out Texas' red carpet.
The trip was the culmination of Perry’s longstanding effort to bring jobs to his state by attracting business owners rankled by conditions at home in places like California, whose recent growth has belied Perry's past criticisms.
As Perry said in an ad running in Maryland in advance of his visit:
"When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas. Where we created more jobs than all other states combined, where you’ll find limited government, low taxes and a fair legal system…. Maybe it’s time to move your business to Texas."
Perry has run similar ads elsewhere, though one of the Maryland commercials took a particular jab at the state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, who, like Perry, is looking at a potential 2016 presidential bid.
"Your governor has made Maryland the tax and fee state, where businesses and families are paying some of the highest taxes in America," he said, going on to blame O’Malley for $9.5 billion in tax increases through next year.
Lucy Nashed, Perry’s spokeswoman, said that the private Beretta event had been planned before Monday’s shooting, which left 12 people dead along with the gunman.
Acknowledging that there were fresh sensitivities involved, she defended companies like Beretta and other gun manufacturers, which as she noted have long been a part of the American economy.
"If they are looking to change where they are at, the governor is interested in having the conversation," she said. As for gun violence, “the governor’s focus is always behind what is the cause. The trigger didn’t pull itself…. If there are mental health issues, we need to be addressing those."
So the faces in the victims’ roll this week may have changed — wrinkled and more world-weary from the Navy Yard, doe-eyed and innocent from Newtown — but the political reality did not.
The Republican-controlled House opposes new gun bills. The Democrats who control the Senate couldn't muster the votes before Monday, and nothing that happened Monday changed that."We don't have the votes. I'd like to get them, but we don't have them now," Reid told reporters after they asked.