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GROUND GAME

With Trump in office, the gun control debate goes silent

President Trump concluded a White House statement about the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vega.s
President Trump concluded a White House statement about the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vega.sDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mass shootings in America have become so routine that there’s almost a certain rhythm as to how the aftermath plays out.

There are the breaking news alerts, the first images from the scene, the death count. Stories emerge of heroic acts from first responders and victims. The president addresses the nation. And then comes the inevitable debate about gun control. Those who want additional regulations demand that we push past special interests who criticize the idea. Those who oppose it suggest that no law can prevent a madman from carrying out an act of terror.

But something different happened Monday morning after the country woke up to the news that dozens had died in Las Vegas in the largest mass shooting in modern American history: silence. Missing were the widespread, angry calls for legislation and the partisan demands for change.

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What is different this time? The political environment as a whole has shifted since the last mass shooting in June 2016. Donald Trump is in the White House and Republicans continue to control Congress. That and the realization from some Democrats that if there was no will to change laws in the wake of 20 elementary school students being shot to death in their Newtown, Conn. classroom, there may never be.

And all that was under a Democratic president, who cried on national TV as he addressed the country about the tragedy and pushed hard for Congress to act.

Now we have President Trump in the White House -- the candidate who received the earliest-ever endorsement from the National Rifle Association. He delivered a strong statement condemning the violence, but his spokeswoman then told reporters: “I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”

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Democrats barely responded. Both the Senate and House Democratic leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi -- no strangers to headlines when they want them -- were conspicuously absent from the cameras Monday.

This is not to suggest that there hasn’t been anyone talking about gun laws since the shooting. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy issued an official statement saying “it’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.” Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey called for reinstituting the assault weapons ban. And Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton vowed he will not stand in a Congressional moment of silence because there needs to be a moment of action.

And, as they always do, stocks of gun manufacturers soared on the news of the Las Vegas shootings.

But on Monday morning something was different. It just felt like there was no reason to believe that federal gun laws will change any time in the next three years. Even if the Senate or the House were to change hands in 2018, giving Democrats the ability to push through gun control legislation, Trump could still veto it. That threat effectively takes the issue off the table -- or at least strongly signals to Democrats that this isn’t a winnable fight.

And that means that all we’re left with is a moment of silence, both for the victims and for their cause.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics:http://pages.email.bostonglobe.com/GroundGameSignUp

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