In the eyes of many New Yorkers, it is one of the nation’s most revolting reruns, as painful as it is predictable.
A madman with an assault rifle transforms a peaceful everyday space — a grocery store, even an elementary school — into a bloody battlefield, hunting down innocent victims in an explosion of terror and death.
Lawmakers pledge to work to stop the carnage, fanning flickers of hope for a congressional crackdown. But sooner or later, the flame dies out, extinguished by a Republican Party that has hardened in its opposition to even modest gun control measures.
A firearm-fueled mass slaughter on Tuesday left 19 children and two teachers dead at a school in Uvalde, Texas, and once more whipped up the familiar chorus of frightened Americans demanding change.
“We have an obligation to pursue every path and explore every realistic option to break the cycle of suffering and inaction,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, declared on the Senate floor Thursday. “Not trying everything is not acceptable.”
But Schumer acknowledged that Democrats are under “no illusions that this will be easy,” saying that they have been “burned in the past” by Republicans who have cast their lot with the National Rifle Association and powerful pro-gun interests.
Precious Joseph, a school safety agent who lives in the shooting-scarred Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, suggested Friday that she was not exactly holding her breath. “It happens,” Joseph, 38, said of mass shootings. “And nothing changes.”
Another Brownsville resident, Alan Paul, 70, put it another way: “Shooting can’t stop in America.”
“Shootings will never stop in America,” said Paul, a retired security guard. “Politicians spoil America. This has to stop. It’s a very hard thing to stop.”
Rocky Simon, 58, who lays his head in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and paints cars at an auto body shop for a living, struck a slightly more optimistic tone, saying he believed it was tough to say if change is on the way this time.
“We need to start with better gun laws,” Simon said. “It’s just too easy to access these weapons.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill firmly agree with that position, and have pushed hard for expanded background checks for gun purchases, and for so-called red flag laws allowing courts to order guns stripped from people deemed dangerous.
Republicans have stonewalled Democrats at every turn in the decade since 20 young children perished in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Even bipartisan legislation that would institute universal background checks has failed to garner 60 Senate votes, rejected by Republicans in defiance of consistent public polling showing roughly 90% support among Americans.
Each devastating shooting has met the same pattern: rumblings from Washington, followed by futile legislative efforts.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a gun-owning West Virginia Democrat who pushed for expanded background checks after the Newtown shooting, said Thursday he was encouraged by activity on both sides of the aisle, and that this time “feels different.”
But NBC News reported that Manchin offered a similar glimmer of hope — almost verbatim — after the fatal shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., four years ago.
“I know folks feel this moment of deja vu,” Sen. Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat now leading the charge in Washington on gun control, said Thursday in a news conference at the Capitol.
“What I also know is that the great social-change movements in this country – the ones that you read about in the history books — they don’t succeed in a year or two years,” Murphy said. “Sometimes they take a decade or more.”
A generation ago, Democrats passed legislation, written by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, that banned the manufacture of some assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The 1994 assault weapons ban expired after a decade, and the enactment of similar legislation has evolved into a Democratic pipe dream: After the Sandy Hook slayings, the Senate skewered a bid for a new assault weapons ban, with 40 votes in favor and 60 against.
Some states still have their own tough gun laws. New York, for example, has a universal background check provision, assault weapons restrictions and a red flag law.
But loose rules in neighbor states can lead to local bloodshed. The white gunman who killed 10 Black shoppers at a Buffalo supermarket this month was believed to have purchased a high-capacity magazine across the border in Pennsylvania before the racist rampage.
Gov. Hochul said Wednesday that other states with “lax laws” like Pennsylvania are robbing New York officials of the ability to “guarantee the safety of the people in our own state.”
The governor called for gun safety laws across the U.S. and offered a plea for the Supreme Court not to strike down a century-old New York law limiting handgun carrying licenses to people with specific defense needs.
The nation’s top court is viewed as likely to gut the gun law next month. Mayor Adams has said New York City should be “very afraid” of the potential ruling, but has also expressed hope about a congressional breakthrough.
“All we need is 10 senators just to get in a room and put us in the right place to turn this madness around,” Adams said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I’m hoping those senators get the moral courage to move in place the process of saving our children.”
“And I’m also hoping the Supreme Court re-deliberates,” the mayor added.
Before any ruling is rendered at the court, Murphy and a bipartisan bunch of Washington lawmakers are gearing up to spend next week’s recess negotiating on gun proposals, perhaps zeroing in on red flag proposals.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Thursday that he had encouraged Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to work on hammering out a deal with Democrats on guns. Cornyn has an A+ grade from the NRA.
“I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution,” McConnell told CNN.
As Roy Biplob, a 30-year-old mailman, carried letters through Sunset Park on Friday, he said America’s leaders must do something to drive down the number of firearms circulating.
“They’ve got to take these guns off the streets,” Biplob said on his route through the Brooklyn neighborhood where a gunman allegedly used a Glock 17 pistol purchased in Ohio to shoot 10 people on the N train last month.
“Look at New York: We’re strict with guns, but they’re still getting guns,” he said. “If Texas had a rule like New York, it could help.”
“They’ve got to close the loopholes.”