Calls for stricter gun laws face political gridlock

On Sunday night, a gunman in a Las Vegas hotel opened fire on a music festival before shooting himself to death. Police had said they found nearly two dozen firearms in his hotel room.

The shooting prompted some Democrats to urge the Republican-controlled Congress to take action to prevent similar mass shootings.

“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in a statement. “There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its a– and do something.”

Murphy represents Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire at an elementary school there in 2012, killing 27 people, including 20 schoolchildren. The Newtown killings spurred Connecticut to tighten its gun laws in 2016.

But Connecticut’s response to gun violence highlights the challenges faced by gun control advocates in preventing future mass shootings that involve automatic rifles.

In 2015, a study found that Connecticut’s 1995 law imposing restrictions on handguns cut firearm homicide rates by 40 percent over the following decade.

But more than two decades after those state-level handgun restrictions were enacted, Connecticut has the highest number of federal machine gun licenses in the country, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. (The data do not include state licenses for handguns or revolvers.)

On a per capita basis, only New Hampshire is more heavily armed with machine guns, according to the ATF data.