WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — President Barack Obama visited yet another blood-soaked city on Thursday following yet another mass shooting.
This time, it was Orlando.
Mr. Obama did his best to bring comfort to the survivors, law enforcement and victims’ families devastated by the Pulse nightclub massacre which left 49 innocents dead and dozens more injured.
The terror attack on the gay nightclub has sparked new pressure on Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass gun control legislation and protect minorities from hate crimes.
Air Force One touched down close to 12:45 p.m. Thursday afternoon, carrying Mr. Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
The symbolism was unmistakable: unity following another gun-inflicted tragedy.
Vice President Joe Biden, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson greeted the commander in chief on the ground, accompanied by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who presented the president with an “Orlando United” t-shirt emblazoned with a heart-shaped rainbow.
As the presidential motorcade rolled through town, it passed “Pray for Orlando” banners and rainbow flags waving in the wind.
There were no glitzy presidential photo opps or slick posters with catchy hashtags.
The White House said Mr. Obama’s visit was simply to show solidarity with a community so horrifically impacted by gun violence.
D.C. gun debate rages
Back in Washington, the gun reform fight raged on, just hours after the 15-hour filibuster led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., ended.
Democrats held a press conference, themed #Enough, which included speeches by several senators and family members of victims of 2015’s Charleston and San Bernardino attacks.
Senate Democrats’ aim, officially backed by the White House and Department of Justice, is threefold: ban suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, impose universal background checks online and at gun shows and renew the expired assault weapons ban.
Murphy says his office received 10,000 supportive calls during his filibuster on Wednesday and sensed that “this country is rising up” to demand tighter gun reforms once and for all.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., predicted a vote on the measures next week, which Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., says will force Republicans to publicly declare if they stand with the majority of Americans who want reforms or terrorists who want to buy guns.
Several vulnerable Republicans facing tough reelections in November, including Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have signaled a degree of flexibility on the so-called “no fly, no buy” amendment.
However, many Republicans are standing behind a proposal authored by Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, which “would give the attorney general the power to deny firearms to terrorists only if she could prove within a 72-hour window that there was probable cause to do so,” reports the Washington Post.
On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stood on the Senate floor and blasted Democrats who “prattled on” about gun control, insisting the real issue is the Obama administration’s repeated failures to connect security dots and declare war on radical Islam.
Public supports reform
Public sentiments appear to be moving in pro-reformers’ direction.
A brand new CBS News poll conducted after the Orlando attack shows that 57 percent of Americans now support a blanket assault weapons ban, up from 44 percent in December.
The same poll found that almost all Republicans (92 percent) and Democrats (97 percent) support universal backgrounds. Independents registered the lowest approval response at 82 percent.
With a vote expected early next week on the gun control measures, GOP senators will spend the weekend calculating how to cast their ballots, with the winds of public opinion appearing to favor Democratic proposals.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter: @ChanceSeales