WASHINGTON (AP) — Newtown. Orlando. Parkland.
And now after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Congress again is confronted with the question of what, if anything, lawmakers should do to combat the scourge of gun violence afflicting the country.
While both parties are calling for action, the retreat to familiar political corners was swift. Democrats demanded quick approval of gun-control legislation — some of it already passed by the House — while Republicans looked elsewhere for answers, focusing on mental health and violent video games.
With Congress away from Washington for a five-week recess, and the parties intractably divided, the odds appear stacked in favor of gridlock. However, Democrats and some Republicans said this time can and should be different.
"While no law will end mass shootings entirely, it's time for Congress to act to help keep our communities safer," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said as he vowed to again push bipartisan legislation to expand background checks to all commercial firearm sales.
Toomey said he talked separately with his co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and President Donald Trump about the background checks bill and a separate proposal making it easier to take guns away from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Trump "showed a willingness to work with us" on background checks and other measures, Toomey told reporters in a conference call. "He was very constructive."
Toomey and Manchin have tried to pass a background check bill since 2013, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, and could not even muster a Senate vote last year.
Manchin called mass shootings and other gun violence "tragic American problems," and said it was "past time for Congress to take action."
Other Democrats put the burden on Trump, saying he should demand Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put a House-passed bill strengthening background checks up for a vote.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate GOP leader is blocking gun safety reforms that more than 90 percent of Americans support. He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said McConnell, R-Ky., should call the Senate into emergency session to take immediate action on the House-passed bill, which would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, including those sold online or at gun shows. Another bill allows an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases.
The House approved the bills in February, but they have not come up for consideration in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In a brief White House speech, Trump condemned the weekend shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead as barbaric crimes "against all humanity" and called for bipartisan cooperation to respond to an epidemic of gun violence. He signaled opposition to large-scale gun control efforts, saying, "hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun."
"We vow to act with urgent resolve," Trump said.
Trump offered a slightly different message earlier in the day, tweeting "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!"
It was not clear how or why he was connecting the issues.
Trump's omission of background checks in his White House remarks showed he was already backing away from his morning tweet, Democrats said.
"It took less than three hours for the president to back off his call for stronger background check legislation," Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. "When he can't talk about guns when he talks about gun violence, it shows the president remains prisoner to the gun lobby," especially the National Rifle Association.
Congress has proven unable to pass substantial gun violence legislation, despite the frequency of mass shootings, in large part because of resistance from Republicans, particularly in the GOP-controlled Senate. That political dynamic seems difficult to change.
A spokesman for Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the panel is planning to hold hearings on domestic terrorism when lawmakers return next month.