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Connecticut school massacre renews gun-control debate

December 16, 2012|By David S. Cloud
  • Mourners looks at the names on a U.S. flag of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims at a sidewalk memorial, in Newtown, Conn.
Mourners looks at the names on a U.S. flag of the Sandy Hook Elementary School… (David Goldman / AP Photo )

WASHINGTON — The massacre of 26 children and adults at a school in western Connecticut may break the logjam in Congress on long-stalled gun-control legislation, although some longtime opponents said they plan to fight any new measures, lawmakers and analysts said Sunday.

“I think we could be at a tipping point can get something done,” Sen. Chuck E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CBS’s "Face the Nation," noting that there had been several mass shootings this year alone. “The public will not accept as a new normal one of these incidents every month”

Schumer called for restoring the ban on assault-style weapons, limiting the number of bullets in ammunition clips and making it harder for “mentally unstable” individuals to obtain firearms.

President Obama, after largely ignoring gun control in his first term, called Friday for “meaningful action” to prevent future attacks, but he offered no specific steps.

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Law enforcement officials say Adam Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday morning and fired dozens of rounds from a semiautomatic combat-style weapon to kill 20 children and six adults. He also killed his mother and himself.

But some opponents of new gun restrictions on gun ownership made clear they planned to fight new laws.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggested that Dawn Hochsprung, the elementary school principal who was killed by the gunman, could have "taken him out" if only she had kept an assault rifle in her office.

“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked,” Gohmert said on Fox News on Sunday, referring to a semiautomatic assault rifle used by the U.S. military. “So when she heard gunfire she pulled it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she had taken him out.”

After a deranged gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens more in a Colorado movie theater in July, Gohmert similarly suggested the tragedy could have been averted if someone in the theater had been armed and shot back.

Predictions that Congress would enact new gun laws after that mass shooting proved inaccurate. Once the initial shock had subsided, calls for action quickly faded from the headlines.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Sunday that she planned to introduce legislation in January that would restore the ban on assault-style weapons, which Congress passed in 1994 but which was allowed expire 10 years later.

The measure would ban the sale, import and possession of new types of the rifles, though gun owners would be able keep versions they already possess, she said.

“The purpose of this bill is to get weapons of war off our streets,” Feinstein said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." “It can be done.”

The bill would also prohibit ammunition clips of more than 10 bullets, she said.

Lanza carried out his massacre with weapons owned legally by his mother, whom he also shot. Unconfirmed reports said he emptied at least three high-volume ammunition clips containing 30 rounds each.

Many analysts said that mental health screening and expanded treatment for troubled individuals should also be considered as a way to help prevent future attacks.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) echoed Feinstein’s call for prohibiting assault-style weapons, noting that the shooting in Newtown may have more impact in Congress than past mass shootings because so many children — all aged 6 or 7 — were killed.

“I really think we may have a chance because of this terrible tragedy,” he said.

After the setbacks Republicans suffered in last November’s elections, some analysts said the party should consider easing its opposition to any new gun-control measures.

William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said the Republican Party could not afford to be seen as standing in the way even of the discussion of new restrictions in Congress.

“Everything has to be on the table,” he said on Fox. “I don’t think the Republican Party should be in the position of saying you can’t even discuss this.”

Some Democrats remain nervous about gun-control measures, worried that the National Rifle Assn. and other gun-rights groups will make them a political target.


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