Why can’t conservatives just take the win on gun rights?

On Monday morning, President Obama praised the “patriots” targeted by the gunman at the Washington Navy Yard, offered the requisite thoughts and prayers, and, without any overt call for gun restrictions, moved on to Syria, the recovery and his budget fight with Republicans.

Rather than accept this surrender on gun control, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus accused Obama of a “bizarre response” to the shootings, and House Speaker John Boehner complained the president didn’t “rise above partisanship.”

“President Obama delivered only brief condolences for the victims of the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Monday morning, before quickly pivoting to a scheduled attack on Republicans,” protested the conservative Daily Caller.

Of course, conservatives would have been even more indignant had Obama used the occasion to talk about gun control, as he did after Newtown.

His response was really a tacit acknowledgment that there is no hope of reviving even the modest gun measure that failed in the Senate in April. If 20 slain first-graders didn’t move Congress, the killing of 12 adults — a depressingly ordinary event in this violence-numb nation — wasn’t about to change the equation.

Obama continues to favor gun control, which he reiterated Tuesday when asked by Telemundo in an interview. But the issue, for the foreseeable future, is settled: Gun control is dead.

Days earlier in Colorado, voters tossed out two state senators because they’d supported background checks for gun transfers and limiting the capacity of ammunition clips. That dashed hopes that gun-control advances could be made in the states if not in Washington.

Some of Congress’ most fervent gun-control advocates, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., made their ritual pleas for legislation, but they were going through the motions. “God forbid we go on with business as usual and not understand what happened yesterday,” Durbin said. He then proceeded with business as usual, debating Republicans on Obamacare.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., put out word that he had no intention of reviving the legislation he wrote with Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to keep guns away from the mentally unstable and the violent. When it failed in April, Manchin vowed to reintroduce it.

Instead, lawmakers resumed their usual squabbles over issues big and small: health care, the debt ceiling, energy, abortion, food stamps, the judiciary, Benghazi, Native American gambling and education in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opened the chamber by requesting a moment of silence for the Navy Yard victims but within five minutes was talking about the “hypocritical and mean-spirited” Republican strategy on health care.

John Thune, R-S.D., had it about right when he said on the Senate floor: “The business of the country goes on, the business of the Senate goes on, but for the families of the victims of that tragedy yesterday, things stand still. And it’s important for all of us, I think, to take a moment and to mourn with them.”

Nineteen seconds later, he resumed his condemnation of Obama’s economic record.

At the White House on Tuesday, The Associated Press’ Julie Pace noted Obama’s subdued response to the shooting and asked if “maybe there’s some sort of numbness among the public since these shootings have happened so frequently.” Another questioner asked if there’s “an acceptance that this is the new normal.”

Press secretary Jay Carney said the president “doesn’t accept that it’s the new normal.”

Maybe not. But the loss of hope for gun control is becoming a durable abnormal.

Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. He can be contacted at:

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