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Calls for stricter gun laws face political gridlock

Democrats continued their call Tuesday for stricter gun laws, but the effort faced a long-standing political stalemate over a deeply divisive issue.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on President Donald Trump to undertake a bipartisan effort to curb gun violence after this week's mass shooting in Las Vegas left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured.

"I am requesting the president to call us together, Democrats and Republicans, to come up with a reasonable solution," Schumer told reporters.

But Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell countered that it was too soon to bring the issue before Congress.

"I think it's premature to be discussing legislative solutions — if there are any," McConnell told reporters separately. "I think it's particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this, which just happened in the last day and a half."

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.

Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault rifles in 1994, but the ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed. Fully automatic rifles remain outlawed, but some semiautomatic rifles are relatively easy to convert to fully automatic action.

Changes proposed by some Democrats, including universal background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines, have not gained traction in the GOP-controlled Congress.

Prominent Republicans, including Trump, have been critical of stricter gun laws on the grounds that they restrict Second Amendment rights.

On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was too early to talk about gun policy, something the administration could talk about "in the coming days." She did not say whether Trump would be open to action on gun policy.

Murphy and other Democrats on Monday decried both what they called a lack of action by Congress and an outsize influence on policy by the gun industry and powerful National Rifle Association.

— CNBC's Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.

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