In aftermath of Connecticut school massacre, what will Congress do about guns?

Fierce lobbying and political concerns become paramount when it comes to changes to gun-control laws.
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Dec 18, 2012
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The horrific Connecticut shootings are likely to change the tone of Congress’ debate over gun control and other efforts to curb violence.

But don’t look for big changes in those laws.

The Friday massacre of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shaken lawmakers like few events in recent years. Its emotional impact is comparable in recent years only to the attempted 2011 assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., but this incident has been even more jarring to members of Congress and the political world.

History shows that shocks like this often result in incremental changes to gun-control laws but little more, as fierce lobbying and political concerns become paramount.

The failures to achieve major changes are mired in the kind of politics that has stifled action on controversial gun-control measures for years. The nation remains divided over how or whether to regulate firearms, and the gun lobby remains one of the Capitol’s most powerful.

The National Rifle Association alone spent more than 10 times as much as gun-control groups on lobbying last year and in the first nine months of this year, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

The center found that last year was the most active election cycle in a dozen years for gun interest groups, as they gave $3 million to candidates, 96 percent of them Republicans, through mid-October. Gun-control groups barely registered, giving only $4,000, all to Democrats.

The gun lobby was unrelenting Monday. Eric Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, said if there’s to be a discussion on gun legislation it “should lead to a greater ability to protect one’s self. . . . Sadly, they (gun-control advocates) will try to exploit this to make people less safe.”

Some Republicans agreed. Said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas: “I wish to God she (the Sandy Hook principal) had had an M-4 (rifle) in her office,” so she could have taken it out and “takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”

Democrats countered with quick calls for gun-control action.

“We should stop making emotional room in our hearts for each year’s new round of public shootings and killing sprees,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

Monday, though, two developments gave gun-control advocates new hope. Many Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who for years have been reluctant to speak out for tougher gun laws, aren’t holding back.

“I actually think things could change. The terrible nature of this shooting has the potential to transform the national debate,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at Washington’s Brookings Institution.

There were some signs Monday that was occurring. “This has changed the dialogue, and it should move beyond the dialogue. We need action,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., an avid hunter, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Getting results, though, won’t be easy.

“I think that between election results and court decisions that a consensus has been settled on both sides that gun control is a non-starter,” said Keith Appell, a Virginia-based Republican strategist.

Appell said the Connecticut shooting will prompt gun-control advocates to produce legislation, “but it probably will not result in anything.”

Some Republicans steered their comments toward the problems of mental illness rather than gun violence.

“We must focus on the root cause of such disasters and not the means by which they enact their despicable deeds,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., in a prepared statement.

Among those urging quick action was Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., architect of a 1994 assault weapons ban in the wake of a 1989 elementary school shooting in Stockton, Calif., that left five students dead and 29 others and a teacher wounded. That ban expired in 2004, and Feinstein plans to mount a new effort.

Also pushing will be Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was killed during a mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad in 1993. She urged strengthening of background checks for gun buyers.

Lawmakers also renewed their pleas to tone down media violence. For years, Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and his allies have called attention at this time of year to entertainment violence. In the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, Lieberman wants a national commission to study the matter.

It doesn’t make everybody more violent. But it’s a causative factor in some cases,” he told Fox News. “We’ve got to ask the entertainment industry, ‘What are you going to do to try to tone that down?’ “

They have some political wind behind them.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., vowed Monday.

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns conservative Fox News, tweeted, “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg this fall launched his Independence USA political action committee to support political candidates who share his views on several subjects, including tougher gun laws.

But advocates face daunting opposition and skepticism. A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll this summer, after a mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, found only 51 percent of respondents favored stricter gun-control laws, while 47 percent were opposed. A CNN/ORC survey taken around the same time said 57 percent favored a ban on the manufacture, sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons, such as the AK-47, while 42 percent were opposed.

One of the last major pushes for gun control came in 1999, one month after the nation was stunned by the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two heavily armed students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher and injured nearly two dozen others before committing suicide.

As part of a juvenile justice bill, Democrats pushed a plan to require background checks at gun shows and pawn shops. The vote in the Senate was a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Al Gore breaking the tie and allowing the change to pass.

The vote became political mythology — that Gore’s decision cost him valuable votes in his 2000 presidential bid, chilling gun-control talk by future Democratic White House hopefuls. Not only are longtime gun-control supporters ready to fight, perhaps with Obama’s help, but Republicans are in some disarray.

“The 2012 election shows Republicans need to reposition themselves,” said West of the Brookings Institution. As the party struggles to broaden its appeal, gun control could become attractive for certain Republicans.

So far, though, the evidence is scant. Sunday network talk shows reached out to key Republicans, but few were eager to talk.

“We tried to get a Republican from the Judiciary Committee” said Bob Schieffer, moderator of CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “but all of the members were either unavailable or said no.”

———

By David Lightman and William Douglas - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

©2012 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

Comments

richrs

Hopefully nothing.

Uputwhatwhere7

Yes let's regulate guns more for the law abiding citizen. After all, it is getting very dangerous out there for the criminal what with all of these law abiding citizens carrying guns and all. Lets make It safer out there for the criminals, you know the ones that don't care about gun laws.

JIMBO2

Feinstein and Reid will get together and think up something stupid...Like renewing the Clinton gun ban. Hopefully smarter Senators will figure out it is the fault of the shooter not the gun. This was without question a horrible tragedy, the exact scenario Feinstein and Sarah Brady have been waiting for to push their agenda. However, that bushmaster ar-15 could lean in the corner for decades and NEVER kill a person. The fault lies with the nut job in this case, not the gun.

Uputwhatwhere7

That's exactly what I'm worried about and why I'm on my way to get one!

jack langhals

There are Smart Senator's?

luvthesun

The bigger problem is the mental illness that is contributing to these horrific acts. Something needs to be done to diagnose and treat these people. In most of these cases these kids have had some type of mental illness where even their parents were afraid of them or have had problems over and above the normal teenage challenges. I can only speak for myself, but I would be happy to have someone with a CC permit in the movie theater or restaurant or anywhere that an armed, crazed person might decide to unload.

Wow1

Couldn't have said it better myself.

jas

I absolutely agree that the bigger problem is mental illness. We live in a sick society that believes might makes right and violence is the solution to our problems. We live in a society where widespread and rampant paranoia causes a large segment of our population to believe that they need to own an arsenal of guns to keep them safe. Paranoia is a mental illness. Until we as a society address the paranoia that causes people to own arsenals of weapons, incidents like Newtown will continue to happen. Jesus never carried a gun and neither will I. I will not succumb to the paranoia that has gripped so many in our nation. Real men don't need guns. Only the mentally ill "need" an arsenal of weapons. It's those people we must help with mental health treatment in order to avoid future incidents like Newtown.

hit the road jack

Carry a note of that (real men don't need guns) in your shirt pocket because when the govt. shoots your @ss,I'll pull that note out of your pocket and ask you while your breathing your last breath if you still agree.

TheGravyWhisperer

...ban guns, ban tire irons, ban bamboo kebab skewers, ban butcher knives, ban piano wire, ban wooden canes, ban hammers, ban loose bricks, ban silver candlesticks, ban lead pipes, ban 2 x 4s, ban deep flights of stairs, ban careening vehicles, ban cliffs without railings, ban all manor of odd poisons... ooops, missed one out... ban soft fluffy pillows...

indytrucker

You forgot Box cutters and Jet airplanes.

TheGravyWhisperer

@indy -- my bad... also forgot trap doors...

rickross2

Guns for life. I will be dead before you pull my guns out of my hands. I wont be the only casuality though, you can bank on that son!

dontcare

exactly why you shouldn't carry a gun

Contango

When will the Dimocrats propose legislation that leads to background checks on gun owners in the inner city?

2cents

I saw this link in the SR last week C.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magaz...

Looks like we will need them in the suburbs more!

Dr. Information

Hey 2cents, how exactly did you post that picture? just curious.

jack langhals

One good idea would to be reestablish the School Security Fund that Bozo and congress let lapse.

dontcare

Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest American presidents

Dr. Information

Bahahaha.....great joke to end my day.

JIMBO2

HIPPA privacy laws hurt background checks because mental health records usually aren't released to law enforcement. If any law needs amended in a case like this it is that one, not more gun control laws that only penalize the people who believe in obeying the laws.

hit the road jack

You didn't see any tears when the drones were killing the masses of people in middle east did you? which by the way included children.Didn't see or hear them complain about all the mexican kids who got killed with the fast and furious scam did you? The US produces 55% of all arms in the world,will they stop making and selling them? I doubt they would even think of it.

m-ville123

Should it be made legal for the average American to by drones? I think not. I believe in the second amendment but I dont think it should allow people to own guns with the capability of unleashing 100 rounds of ammunition in 10 seconds. Assault Rifles should stay in the military, along with drones, rocket launchers and land mines.

hit the road jack

m-ville 123- The second amendment wasn't drafted so you could kill your neighbor if you didn't like them,it was drafted to protect yourself against your own govt. Drones ,hell they're nothing to own,you can buy a remote control plane or helicopter at any store for $50.

m-ville123

Yea I understand the second amendment was drafted 250 years ago directly following the American revolution when it took 50 seconds to load and shoot the fastest gun of the time.

hit the road jack

And the govt. took 50 seconds to load theirs too! now its a whole different ballgame.

propman

m-ville, here is a lesson for you
Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.
---Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787).

I'm sure you'll have some inane reply. Below is the defination for you.
Definition of INANE
1: empty, insubstantial
2: lacking significance, meaning, or point : silly

m-ville123

Thanks for the lesson you just googled. If you and Jack are so worried about the government wanting all of its tax payers dead maybe you should just go ahead and move to another country. I hear Syria is nice this time of year. And by the way you shouldn't use words that you have to reference a dictionary to define, it just shows me you've heard it used in a sentence before but have no idea what it means. I hope this was Inane enough for you.

hit the road jack

m-ville123,Why,what a wonderful idea,move to another country to make YOU happy,I got a better idea,YOU move to china or russia where the comunist or socialist ideas are common on the streets,in case you never noticed or read the constitution you are legally alowed to have weapons to defend yourself against your govt.

m-ville123

And also this is the third Article I've seen that you directly quote Noah Webster. That's very good propman but if you wouldn't take it out of context maybe it could be of some use to you.

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