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.
Wire
Dec 18, 2012
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

propman

m-ville
Why should I not use the quotes when they have said it better?
I added the defination for your benifit.
Besides someone omce said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repete it.
You sure are DOOMED to continue your mistakes and I will not be dragged down by them.

dontcare

Propman get help...please

hit the road jack

m-ville 123-The better question is, should the govt. be flying drones in my back yard? hell no! especially armed ones,this is what they are gonna do too! till we get our heads out of our asses and do something about it.I have heard they want to have 30,000 drones in the US alone in less than 10 years.

m-ville123

I guess I trust my government way more then my drunk neighbor who has a AR 15 with a hundred round clip in it.

Contango

@ m-ville123:

How's any new "feel good" legislation gonna affect the actions of your hypothetical neighbor if he already has the materiel?

m-ville123

At least my other neighbor won't have a chance to buy one.

m-ville123

And i wish my drunk neighbor was hypothetical.

Contango

@ m-ville123:

Nice ghetto ya live in.

Back to my point: Any new legislation added on top of the other 2 billion gun laws won't change the facts with your one neighbor.

m-ville123

Yea thanks, for all I know you're my neighbor. I understand how law works. I absolutely do not see the purpose in owning a gun designed to kill mass amounts of human beings. Life isn't cheap to me.

hit the road jack

If you think life isn't cheap to you,someone better tell the govt. then,you can kill someone and get less time than getting caught with a pocket full of drugs. And if you were to fight back against your govt.,you wouldn't want to go against them with a single shot rifle would you?

m-ville123

Haha like it would matter. It sounds like according to you they would just blow my house up with a drone you paranoid nut.

hit the road jack

Go ahead and laugh you nut case,It can and may happen just as you put it! they already passed a bill saying you cannot leave the country if the govt. doesn't want you to and yes the drones are flying the skies already.

hit the road jack

How many houses have they blown up in the middle east already? they won't tell you but who says you may not be next,you know with the NDAA they can arrest you throw your @ss in jail,prison or wherever they want,never tell anyone about you and keep you as long as they want or till you die and no one will know,hows that for a trusting govt.?

m-ville123

You are absolutely the reason why there needs to be gun reform. I'm not sure if your being serious or not but just in case i really would feel safer if the government had an eye on you hahaha.

hit the road jack

Your probably right,they may watch me,they will watch out for an informed civilian but a nut like you? no problem.

m-ville123

Yep your the one who thinks the the government is out to kill us. And i'm the nut. Why don't you crawl back into your Waco style compound you David Koresch wanna be.

hit the road jack

I just have a REAL problem with someone who says they trust their govt! with all the rights they're taking away from you,I just don't understand some people.

m-ville123

I said I trust the government more than my drunk neighbor which isn't saying much. I have a REAL problem with people who don't understand what they read. Which might explain your reason of thinking.

hit the road jack

Well,obviously I am not the only one having a problem with YOUR reasoning.

propman

Jack, m-ville seems to be unable to reason. Most likely from swollowing the liberal agenda hook,line,and sinker. Now all he can do is regurgitate it trying to infect the rest of us.

m-ville123

Yep totally unable to reason. I'm guessing you and Jack both believe the world will end Friday, most likely from are own government dropping bombs out of drones and no one will be able to escape the country because the government will put a hold on all of are passports at the border crossing. so good luck.

hit the road jack

m-ville123 With this kind of wisdom,you are the reason we have the goons running this country and the retards running the streets today! if I were you (and hopfully you didn't have kids)I would watch out for anything you bore. You people have no problem with the govt. sending automatic weapons to foreign countries(that kill kids)but want to restrict mine or someone else's. did you know EVERY citizen of Israel at the ripe age of 16 is given an automatic rifle if they choose to have one at OUR expense? or that in russia they are made to learn to take apart an AK-47,clean it and put it back together,no maybe's about it. You probably don't have a problem that its been what,a year and a half that they sent automatic weapons to the drug cartels of mexico(and hundreds of people killed) and NO ONE has yet taken any blame or arrested,give me a break!

propman

Still spewing your liberal based garbage m-ville?
You are as poor at reasoning as any one I've ever meet.

dontcare

After monitoring these discussions, I have to say the m'ville, is the only one making real sense. If your too scared to go outside without a gun and believe the government is out to get you. I would urge you to seek counseling there is medicine that really could help. Of course if the medicine comes from the government it is probably laced with mind control subjstances and the counselors are CIA operatives.

hit the road jack

maybe you two should hook up then and go bury both your heads in the sand and you won't be alone then.

m-ville123

'

Dr. Information

How do you post pictures on this site because I have a great picture that will end this argument.

dontcare

hit the road jack, do you get internet in your underground bunker? Did you hear that the government has developed a misquito that injects a mind control drug when it bites. Get with propman and maybe you can cut a deal on a counseling package at Firelands.

hit the road jack

Me need counseling? doubt it,you need it more than you think,the mosquito,I think its called dontcare,so bite me!

Fairlybadboy

Guns are stupid, and designed for one purpose. Guns aren't the problem, and further regulation would obscure the real issue most influential in any of the school shootings. Terrible Parenting, mixed with poor judgement and apathy. Have you seen a photo of this kid? I would have caged him like a Gravelle. "Never turn your back on him", his Mother was reported to have said, yet she purchased and permitted access to a cache of guns. High powered guns. Parents, in a just world, would be prosecuted for negligence if their child goes on a shooting spree. Unfortunately she took too many bullets to the face to stand trial. If your dog bites someone, you have to answer to someone. If your child goes viral and shoots up babies, you're evidently eulogized as a "nice", "kind" Woman who "would do anything for anyone". Save for keeping your psychopath away from the boom sticks.

Pages