The House's No. 2 Democrat on Tuesday said the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that killed 13, including the shooter, likely won't push Congress toward passing gun control legislation.

"I think it will bring up debate. Whether it will bring up action is problematic," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters. "The past is prologue; that prologue is not very helpful."

Hoyer said he was disappointed the Senate last spring rejected legislation that called for tighter background checks for gun purchases, saying its passage would have been the "rational thing to do."

The Democrat admitted that nationally there are "some very mixed signals" on the issue. While many polls show overwhelming support for tighter gun restrictions, Hoyer also pointed to two Colorado state legislators who were ousted in a recall election last week after supporting background checks for gun purchases.

But Hoyer blamed the Colorado election results on influential conservative groups that have long pushed back against background checks and firearm restrictions.

"Public opinion apparently does not manifest itself at the polls," he said. "What manifests itself at the polls is the hardline groups that energize their single-issue voters to vote, or else how do you explain … Colorado?"

"The groups in this instance, on these single-issue issues, obviously hold a great sway, particularly in the Republican Party."