There is no evidence to suggest existing gun laws could have prevented James Holmes, the 24-year-old who authorities say walked into a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" clad in black body armor and a gas mask, from killing 12 and injuring nearly 60.
Holmes had no criminal record or known history of mental illness that would have shown up on a routine background check. He legally possessed the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun, and the .40 caliber Glock handgun he is suspected of using in the attacks.
And in the months prior to the shooting, Holmes purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition just as easily as one could buy sneakers over the Internet without raising any suspicions.
"People who are so bent on doing that kind of destruction, there is probably no law on the books that could just stop them cold," says New York Democrat Rep. Carolyn McCarthy whose husband was murdered and son severely injured in the 1993 Long Island train massacre. "But why are we making it so easy for them to get this kind of equipment?"
On Capitol Hill, the Aurora tragedy has no doubt reignited the topic of gun control.
Colorado Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who represents the 7th district where the shooting transpired, spent the weekend meeting with victims' families and survivors, attending memorial services and vigils.
"This last week has been hellish for me in the sense of representing a community that was ravaged by a terrible, demonic, diabolic act," he says. "It's a pretty tight-knit city we live in and people are really supporting one another, but we won't be quite the same even as we heal; there will be some scars."
On Wednesday, he met with Rep. McCarthy to discuss legislative options in light of the tragedy ranging from making it harder to buy ammunition online to implementing a new assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
"He wants to do something today, but it can't be done today," McCarthy says.
McCarthy says California Sen. Diane Feinstein has expressed interest in introducing a new version of the assault weapons ban, but added the complications of the legislation means it is going to take some time to draft. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Senate's busy schedule wouldn't leave time to debate gun control this legislative session.
"Leadership can say we have to deal with other things, but that doesn't mean that we are going to ignore this and not address it," Perlmutter says.
Speaker John Boehner signaled Thursday during a briefing with reporters that he's open to a conversation about gun laws.
"I think that what's appropriate at this point is to look at laws that we already have on the books and to make sure that they're working as they were intended to work and are they being enforced the way they were intended to be enforced," Boehner said.
Implementing stricter gun laws is never far from the minds of some legislators. Dozens of bills have been introduced, but most have gone nowhere.
Legislation that would ban the sale and production of assault weapon magazine clips that hold more than 10 rounds of bullets, similar to the one used by Holmes, has 113 co-sponsers, but has sat in a House subcommittee for over a year.
And the "Fix Gun Checks Act," a bill requiring background checks for all weapons sold, even those purchased at gun shows, has also been stuck in committee since last November.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a staunch supporter of an assault weapons ban, says legislation which prohibits the sale of certain kids of semi-automatic guns doesn't have the public or political support to make it to the floor in the months prior to the election.
"Assault weapons have one purpose and one purpose only, to kill a lot of people quickly," Hoyer says. "Having said that, what we really need to do is create consent in this country because we don't have the votes to pass it. We would be kidding ourselves to put legislation on the floor at this point in time, even in light of this tragedy."
A Gallup poll shows that support for tougher gun laws has dropped dramatically over the last decade. In 1991, 78 percent of Americans favored implementing stricter gun laws. In 2011 only 44 percent of Americans polled wanted them.
But that hasn't stopped Congress in the past from responding to tragedy.
After Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 students at Virginia Tech, Congress passed the "NICS Improvement Amendments Act," which made it tougher for criminals and those with mental illness to purchase firearms. The bill was a direct response to the reporting gap that allowed Cho, who had been declared mentally unstable, to buy a gun.
Before it was passed, between 80 percent and 90 percent of the mental health records and 25 percent of felony conviction records were missing from NICS, the national database that is used for background checks.
In many states, local governments and courts lack the infrastructure necessary to send complete records of individuals' criminal backgrounds or mental illnesses to the national NICS database. The NICS Act provided financial assistance to help states send records to NICs and penalized states who failed to comply.
But, earlier this week the Government Accountability Office released an audit of the "NICS Improvement Amendments Act" and concluded that "most states have made limited progress in providing mental health records."
Since 2007, 17 states uploaded fewer than 10 mental illness records to NICS.
Pam Simon, a staffer for former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford and who was shot in the chest in the 2011 Tucson shooting that nearly killed Giffords, says it has been 18 months since Jared Lee Loughner killed six and injured 12 in a supermarket parking lot.
"For people like me, you know what if feels like to have a piece of metal go through your body," Simon says. "We know how to do these tragedies in this country, we bring flowers, we plan permanent memorials. What better permanent memorial is there for survivors of gun violence than to get some legislation?"
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