WASHINGTON – A flurry of activity on Capitol Hill about gun control has already begun in the wake of the high-profile gun crime committed at Virginia Tech this week. Some advocates are using the shooting spree as an example of an urgent need for action despite the fact shooter Cho Seung-Hui obtained the guns legally.
However, there appears to be little appetite for action in the new Democratic-controlled Senate.
A number of Senate Democrats told FOX News on Tuesday that it's premature to be talking about gun control. Freshman Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, himself a Second Amendment advocate, went further, saying any talk of gun control measures is "way, way, way too insensitive and way, way, way too premature."
Like Tester, Freshman Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who represents the state where the crime occurred and who carries a permitted, concealed weapon, seems unlikely to pounce. Same with gun rights advocate Harry Reid, the Senate's Democratic Leader, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., an avid hunter. Those personal convictions make it less likely gun control measures will be considered by the Senate this year.
Reid counseled patience on Tuesday, telling reporters, "A lot of work is going on, and we need to just wait and find out what should and shouldn't be done."
Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig lashed out at those who would call for gun control as a result of the Virginia Tech shooting, calling it "political opportunism."
"I've always believed that in nations where the greatest of human freedoms exist, sometimes the greatest of human abuses can occur. And there are those who are trying to leverage the greatest of human tragedies right now," Craig said.
Still, pro-gun control Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is holding out hope for action, though she said, "This is a week for the nation to mourn."
Feinstein, a prominent sponsor of the now-expired 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, said she sees a way the ban might have remedied this case, though the senator was careful to say all the facts are not yet known.
Under the 1994 ban, the gun clips Cho reportedly used would have been illegal since under that law, magazines with more than 10 bullets are outlawed.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters she's talking to Feinstein about a new bill that would limit the number of bullets in a gun clip. Boxer added that another piece of legislation she co-authored with Colorado Democratic Sen. Ken Salazar, the state attorney general during the Columbine High School shootings, should be considered, though it would have no effect on incidents like that at VT.
The Boxer-Salazar bill would "provide funding for schools through the Justice Department to improve school safety measures such as tip lines, surveillance equipment, and capital improvements to schools," according to an office press release.
Leahy, the hunter, would not altogether rule out a legislative remedy and said hearings on the campus shooting were a certainty, but he did counsel patience.
"I want to find out more about what happened. We don't know what happened here. We are all still in a state of shock." Leahy noted that Republicans, backed by the highly-influential National Rifle Association, pushed hard and won the expiration of the assault weapons ban. Leahy voted for the ban. Reid voted against the ban.
Gun control is never an easy topic on Capitol Hill. In more than 70 years, Congress has only approved five laws that circumscribe gun ownership, which is a guaranteed constitutional right.