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Few signs Colorado shooting will make gun control a campaign issue

July 22, 2012|By Don Lee and Morgan Little
  • Barb Whitfield and her grandson, Wanya Whitfield, 15, visit at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo.
Barb Whitfield and her grandson, Wanya Whitfield, 15, visit at a makeshift… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Energized by the horrific shooting violence in Aurora, Colo., the national debate over gun control has taken on new force but shows few signs that the issue will emerge as a major campaign theme.

On news talk shows Sunday, Democrat and Republican lawmakers clashed on the issue, while state and local leaders and police commissioners wondered aloud whether stricter control of firearms could have prevented someone like the alleged gunman, James Holmes, a graduate student in neurosciences, from carrying out the early Friday movie-theater assault that killed a dozen people and injured 58 others.

PHOTOS: The victims of the Colorado shooting

Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether the incident should prompt a renewed look at Colorado’s gun laws, which are considered relatively lax, the state’s governor, John Hickenlooper, responded: “This wasn’t a Colorado problem, this was a human problem ... and how we can have such a warped individual and no one around be aware.

“Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical, right?” Hickenlooper said, his face creased with a mixture of pain and puzzlement felt by many people trying to understand the suspect's motives. “He would have found explosives. He would have found something else, some sort of poisonous gas. He would have done something to create this horror.”

Even so, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), whose husband was killed by a deranged gunman in 1993, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that such individuals also have one thing in common: “They all had a gun with large magazines.”

McCarthy added that “as horrible as this tragedy was and is, you have to remember how many people are killed every single day.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a longtime advocate of stricter gun restrictions, on Sunday repeated her call for a renewed examination of the nation’s firearms laws.

“I believe people use these weapons because they can get them,” she said on "Fox News Sunday."

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) took an opposing view, arguing that had someone else in the Aurora theater been carrying a weapon, “maybe, maybe they could have prevented some of those deaths, some of those injuries, and that’s just the truth.”

Feinstein retorted: “And maybe you could have had a fire fight and killed many more people.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN's "State of the Union": "To think that somehow increased gun control is the answer, in my view, that would have to be proved."

President Obama is scheduled to visit Aurora on Sunday afternoon. So far, he hasn’t talked about gun control in the wake of the Colorado shooting, but he faces pressure to address the issue.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday heightened his earlier criticisms of Obama for spending “the last three years trying to avoid the issue” of gun control. The president, who said he would provide new parameters for gun safety two months after the 2011 Tucson, Ariz., shooting spree, has yet to mention gun rights in the wake of the Colorado shooting.

As for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose own history as a gun control maverick put him at odds with his own party, he has little reason to stir the pot on gun rights.

“We don’t need more laws, we need a couple of fixes,” Bloomberg said on “Face the Nation,” a sentiment a majority of Americans appear to agree with, with a late 2011 poll showing 60% think that current gun control laws should be enforced more strictly, with just 35% in favor of new legislation.

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don.lee@latimes.com

morgan.little@latimes.com

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