WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders called for unity and prayer Tuesday after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, but offered no new legislation to tighten gun laws and said a bill to ease regulations on gun silencers would be shelved indefinitely.
"We are all reeling from this horror in Las Vegas," Speaker Paul Ryan said at a news conference. "This is just awful."
Ryan said there's no plan for the House to act soon on a National Rifle Association-backed bill to ease regulations on gun silencers. A House panel had backed the bill last month and lawmakers were expected to move ahead on the measure.
The bill is "not scheduled right now. I don't know when it will be scheduled," Ryan said.
Instead, Ryan and other GOP leaders urged prayers to unify the country and said a positive way to respond to the shooting is to donate blood. Ryan said the actions of the gunman who killed at least 59 people and wounded hundreds more will not "define us as a country. It's not who we are."
Ryan's comments came as Democrats renewed calls for gun safety legislation.
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, pushed Congress to pass a universal background checks bill and "commonsense gun laws" to help prevent the next mass shooting.
"We can't stop the shootings that have already happened in Las Vegas, Chicago, Roseburg, Oregon, and across the nation. We failed to respond in time for those victims and their families. But if we work together, we can stop shootings in the future," Durbin said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that the GOP-backed silencer bill could have deadly consequences.
"One of the few ways the police had to go after this shooter was they could look for the sound, try to hear the sound of where the guns came from," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "Thank God our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have pulled back on this bill."
Schumer and other Democrats noted that Republicans postponed a hearing on the silencer bill in June when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others were shot at a congressional baseball practice.
"When two mass shootings force you to delay a bill that would make those mass shootings harder to detect and stop, maybe that's a sign you ought to let go of the bill go, once and for all," Schumer said.
Besides the silencer measure, House GOP leaders had been moving forward with a bill to allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their weapons to other states. Republicans had been upbeat about prospects for legislation, but votes on both measures seemed unlikely.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who favors gun control, said Monday it was "time for Congress to get off its ass and do something." In an outdoor news conference Monday, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, grievously wounded in a 2011 attack, turned to the Capitol, raised her fist and said, "The nation is counting on you."
But no action was expected, as other mass shootings in Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida, and even attacks on Gifford and Scalise, failed to unite Congress on any legislative response. A bipartisan bill on background checks failed in the Senate four years ago, and since then Republicans have usually pointed to mental health legislation when questioned about the appropriate congressional response to gun violence.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday asked Ryan to create a select committee on gun violence to recommend legislation. A group of Democratic lawmakers asked Ryan to remove the silencer bill from the House calendar indefinitely.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Ryan said Congress needs to fund mental health reforms. "But if you're saying that this Republican Congress is going to infringe upon Second Amendment rights, we're not going to do that," he said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said lawmakers should remember the good feelings they shared when Scalise returned to the Capitol last week, more than three months after the June 14 shooting.
"It's really a time that we have to heal. It's really a time to find what divides us" and put it aside, he said. "We need to find that we are stronger. We cannot allow this terror to win."
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.