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Democrats Confront 2 Obstacles on Guns: Time, and an Implacable G.O.P.


Three days.

That’s how long it takes before the general public’s anger begins to dissipate after a mass shooting, in line with two scholars at Princeton University. It’s now over 24 hours after an 18-year-old gunman slaughtered 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, and the national conversation over what to do next has already fallen into a well-recognized pattern.

Democrats are demanding motion. Republicans try to vary the topic. And time is running out before the country’s attention inevitably turns elsewhere.

For a paper published last yr within the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Patrick Sharkey and Yinzhi Shen of Princeton examined Gallup surveys of Americans’ self-reported emotions in the times before and after a mass shooting.

The more horrific the massacre, they found, the greater the emotional impact on the local people. The response for Democrats was larger — a 50-percentage-point increase in sadness, versus a 20-point rise for Republicans — however the sense of devastation went away at the identical rapid rate.

“The sensation we’re all feeling today, with this dark cloud hanging over us, it’s just impossible to hold that weight for weeks and months,” Sharkey said in an interview. “I feel that’s just an commentary about how human emotions work.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill are well aware of the urgency, but are also deeply skeptical that Republicans will work with them in good faith, as my colleague Jonathan Weisman reports. They’ve bitter memories of past attempts to pass federal gun-safety laws, and for good reason.

In 2013, a bill to expand background checks for gun purchases failed after 26 children and staff members were murdered the previous yr at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

In 2019, after back-to-back shootings killed greater than 30 people in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, The Recent York Times reported that Republicans were “coalescing around laws to assist law enforcement take guns from those that pose an imminent danger” — so-called red-flag laws.

President Donald Trump expressed support for that concept, amongst others, in a White House address. But he never put real pressure on Republicans to act, and Senator Mitch McConnell, who controlled the Senate on the time, waited until the general public furor faded before quietly moving on to other topics.

On Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, cautiously left open the door for movement.

“My Republican colleagues can work with us now,” he said. “I feel it’s a slim prospect. Very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burned so again and again before.”

He added: “But that is so essential. We must pursue motion and even ask Republicans to affix us again.”

Democrats’ current plan, in line with aides near Senate leadership, is to explore bipartisan talks, led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, while being fully prepared for those conversations to guide nowhere.

“I’ve asked Senator Schumer for the space to have that conversation over the following 10 days,” Murphy told reporters on the Capitol on Wednesday. “And I feel over the course of per week and a half, we’ll know whether there’s a chance to get a bipartisan bill or not.”

In a single possible indicator of the futility of such discussions, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a leading supporter of red-flag laws on the state level, said individually on Wednesday, “I can’t assure the American people there’s any law we are able to pass that might have stopped this shooting.”

On Thursday, a vote to shut off debate on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill originally intended as a response to the opposite recent mass shooting, in Buffalo, is anticipated to run right into a Republican filibuster. So would yet-to-be-scheduled votes on strengthening background checks, as Schumer looked as if it would acknowledge in his remarks on Wednesday.

It’s hard to say whether the frustration amongst Democrats has reached recent heights — it was already pretty darn high. But expressions of fury and helplessness are all over the place for the reason that shooting on Tuesday.

Within the hours after the massacre, Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona hurled a series of epithets on Twitter at Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, who had accused Democrats of in search of to “politicize” what happened. Gallego called Cruz “useless” and a “baby killer.”

In Texas on Wednesday, Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for governor, confronted Gov. Greg Abbott at a news conference. O’Rourke said the shooting was “totally predictable” and accused Abbott, his Republican opponent, of “doing nothing” to deal with the issue. An official onstage called O’Rourke an expletive, and Abbott chastised him after he was ushered out by the police.

“There are relations who’re crying as we speak,” Abbott said. “Think in regards to the people who find themselves hurt and help those that are hurt.”

As O’Rourke was leaving, he said, “Someone must get up for the youngsters of this state, or they may proceed to be killed.”

Our colleague Jazmine Ulloa, who grew up in El Paso and is a native Spanish speaker, is in Uvalde, where she spoke with relations as they learned the fate of their children.

We spoke by phone as she was racing to flesh out the portrait of their killer. Our conversation, condensed and edited for clarity, is below.

What did you see yesterday if you got to town?

Once I arrived on the civic center that was serving as a hub for the varsity community, it was already dark. It was a hot and muggy night, with a thunderstorm a couple of hours away from rolling in, and families were clustered around their vehicles within the parking zone. It was large families, uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins.

Lots of them were just hearing the news that their children were gone. People were weeping and embracing and you may hear the agony, prefer it was just tearing through the air.

Some parents were struggling to walk back to their cars after hearing the news; they were leaning on family members. There was one woman who fell to her knees and type of folded over the passenger’s seat of the automotive. She was sobbing and couldn’t stand up.

You’ve covered mass shootings before. Was there anything that leaped out at you that was different about this one?

Yeah, the El Paso shooting happened five minutes from my highschool. With this one, I feel what’s different is how young the victims are. That they’re children is just essentially the most crushing thing. And it’s even harder to process.

Last night, I saw the news that President Biden’s remarks on the shooting were booed at Herschel Walker’s victory party in Georgia. And I used to be within the parking zone with these parents, who were feeling a lot pain. I don’t know what to call it — it was a jarring juxtaposition.

— Blake

Is there anything you’re thinking that we’re missing? Anything you must see more of? We’d love to listen to from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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