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Even Politicians Couldn't Find Words

A flag outside the Capitol flies at half-staff.
A flag outside the Capitol flies at half-staff. (By Carol T. Powers -- Bloomberg News)

As he backed into an elevator, Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (Vt.) offered, "At some point we'll have a hearing."

Even the voluble Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) was silent. "I'm not talking about it today," he said. He offered to speak "when I feel it's appropriate, which will be in a few days, after we get over the grieving and all of that."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), facing the cameras, was asked whether Congress will hurry to tighten gun laws, as it did after Columbine. "I hope there's not a rush to do anything," Reid replied. "We need to take a deep breath."

On the other side of the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had no time for deep breathing as four reporters, including The Post's Jonathan Weisman, chased her down a corridor before she escaped into a members-only elevator. "We're in mourning right now," she said when asked the gun-control question.

While Pelosi ducked, archliberal Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) struck a conservative note on the topic. "The states are dealing with gun issues," she reasoned. "We tried it and it didn't succeed."

Out on the floor, lawmakers endeavored, sometimes awkwardly, to link the Virginia Tech tragedy with their pet issues. Opposing hate-crimes legislation, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) argued that the bill "says that if you are going to hurt someone, if you are going to shoot them, brutalize them, please make it a random, senseless act of violence like in Virginia. Don't hate them while you hurt them."

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) said: "Our thoughts and prayers today are with the students of Virginia Tech." He added: "I rise today in support of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act."

Bob Bennett (R-Utah) attempted to reach similar balance on the Senate floor: "Before I begin my statement with respect to tax day, I wish to pause and express on behalf of the people of Utah our great sympathy."

It won't be long, however, until lawmakers shed their reticence about gun control. "There will be a time to debate the steps needed to avert such tragedies," Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said Monday on the Senate floor.

That time apparently will come Friday, when Kennedy is scheduled to host an event with Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) -- at a shooting range.

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