News24

US gun control debate simmers

2012-12-17 14:14

Washington - Democrats say meaningful action in the wake of last week's elementary school shooting must include a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the US deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness.

Several Democratic lawmakers, and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, said on Sunday that it was time to take a deeper look into the recent spate of mass shootings and what can be done about it.

Gun control was a hot topic in the early 1990s, when Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons. But since that ban expired in 2004, few Americans have wanted stricter laws and politicians say they don't want to become targets of a powerful gun rights lobby.

Gun rights advocates said that might all change after the latest shooting killed 20 children aged 6 or 7.

"I think we could be at a tipping point ... a tipping point where we might actually get something done," said Senator Chuck Schumer on CBS' "Face the Nation".

Speaking on Sunday night at a vigil in Newtown, Connecticut, the site of Friday's massacre, President Barack Obama did not specifically address gun control. But he vowed, "In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this".

He added: "Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"

Schumer and other Democrats, as well as Lieberman, said they want to ban the sale of new assault weapons and make it harder for mentally ill individuals to obtain weapons. Lieberman said a new commission should be created to look at gun laws and the mental health system, as well as violence in movies and video games.

Serious national conversation

"Assault weapons were developed for the US military, not commercial gun manufacturers," Lieberman said before the Newtown vigil Sunday night.

"This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence," said the Connecticut senator, who is retiring next year.

Senator Dianne Feinstein said she will introduce legislation next year to ban new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.

"It can be done," Feinstein told NBC's "Meet the Press" of reinstating the ban despite deep opposition by the National Rifle Association and similar groups.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Obama could use executive powers to enforce existing gun laws, as well as throw his weight behind legislation like Feinstein's.

"It's time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do — not go to Congress and say, 'What do you guys want to do?'" Bloomberg told NBC's "Meet the Press".

Gun rights activists have remained largely quiet on the issue since Friday's shooting, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows.

David Gregory, the host of "Meet the Press", said NBC invited all 31 "pro-gun" senators to appear on Sunday's show, and all 31 declined. All eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were unavailable or unwilling to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation," host Bob Schieffer said.

Republican Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas was the sole representative of gun rights' activists on the various Sunday political talk shows. In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Gohmert defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.

Strongest gun laws

"I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn't have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes him [the shooter] out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said.

Gohmert also argued that violence is lower in cities with lax gun laws, and higher in cities with stricter laws.

"The facts are that every time guns have been allowed — conceal-carry [gun laws] have been allowed — the crime rate has gone down," Gohmert said.

Gun control advocates say that isn't true. A study by the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence determined that seven of the 10 states with the strongest gun laws — including Connecticut, Massachusetts and California — are also among the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates.

"If you look at the states with the strongest gun laws in the country, they have some of the lowest gun death rates, and some of the states with the weakest gun laws have some of the highest gun death rates," said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Comments
  • JaredVN - 2012-12-17 14:51

    Guns don't fire themselves. Knives also don't fly out of drawers and embed themselves in people's backs. What about having a debate about the other half of the equation too: Mental health. The perpetrator of the Connecticut shootings was clearly a disturbed individual. Go ahead, ban guns - loons will simply then make bombs or find some other means of killing people (Timothy McVeigh didn't use a gun but killed hundreds.) Except those same people calling for gun control, are way too politically correct to even see the elephant in the room: Some mental problem sufferers are dangerous individuals, and without some way of managing this, society will be at risk even if it does ban guns.

      ab.normal.961 - 2012-12-17 15:49

      Gun control's are important, it should stop normal folk from owning weapons that are clearly designed for combat. Why would any ordinary individual need the kind of fire power, it has nothing to do with restricting freedom but everything to do with protecting the innocent.

      riaan.mostert.58 - 2012-12-17 16:12

      Amen ab. This whole argument about people's right to own assault weapons borders on the insane. WTF would you want to do with a machine gun?

      adil.smit.5 - 2012-12-17 16:15

      Problem is when Mr nice Guy,won't hurt a fly has a few drinks too many and thinks his neighbour is eyeing his wife. And he has 20 guns in his house. Or if some of his guns are stolen in a house robbery.

      Jack - 2012-12-17 17:13

      If you wanted to disarm the US population from their constitutional right to bear arms what kind of incident might you want to trigger? The kid wasn't normal. How and why did he get that way? Lots of interesting questions before any conclusions can be drawn. Jared is spot on. The Swiss are heavily armed, and so are many other countries with few incidents. There is something else afoot over there.

      grant.callaway.50 - 2012-12-18 14:26

      It's not one, nor the other - its a combination of the two! There are seriously disturbed individuals out there who have easy access to deadly weapons! You dont leave guns lying around a preschool, and say "well, you have to teach those kids responsibility!" Fact is, if there are people around who shouldn't be handling weapons, regardless of how you should be handling those individuals, THEY STILL SHOULDNT BE ABLE TO GET THEIR HANDS ON GUNS!! I'm all for being able to protect yourself, but there should still be MASSIVE responsibility attached to that. If I wanted a gun for self-protection, I would have no problem having to explain and prove the use of every bullet fired in order to purchase any new ones. Its not just about rights to bear arms - its about CONTROL over that.

      jeanpierre.oberholzer - 2012-12-18 18:43

      @ Jack, The Swiss may be well armed but it is completely different. 1.Despite there being many guns, still some of the strictest gun laws around. 2.Only people who have completed military service (therefore trained properly in their firearms) have weapons, and then only while the are eligible for call up.3 All weapons and ammunition are checked regularly by the military to make sure there has been no tampering or illegal use. 4 Population of around 6 million so not so many crazy's, and easier to keep track of the firearms, ammunition etc. Basically no comparison to a country where just about any old nut job can order a semi automatic assault rifle on line, nip down to wall-mart for some amour piercing rounds and attack innocent civilians. Gun control is the solution, if only because gun control would prevent nut jobs from having guns.

  • michael.i.wright - 2012-12-17 15:23

    They need to radically overhaul the mental health care system. Build as many asylums as possible to accommodate all the lefty nutjobs.

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-12-17 17:31

      And Firing Squads for all the righty nutjobs.

      michael.i.wright - 2012-12-17 22:25

      Funny how the leftmentality ill claim to be sweetness, light and why can't we all just sit around the fire and sing kumbaya, yet are always wanting anyone who disagrees with them to be slaughtered.

  • ab.normal.961 - 2012-12-17 15:57

    If you are interested in that kind of fire power, join the army or navy. But don't make it available to ordinary folk, because even normal people can become mentally challenged or stressed at times due to difficult circumstances.

  • julian.laing.3 - 2012-12-17 15:59

    That Texan prick should be shot for what he said....

  • flysouth - 2012-12-17 16:09

    it was Reagan in the 1980s that closed many publicly-funded mental institutions and stopped the expansion of that health sector to fill a growing need. We are seeing the result of that today and for several years past - and it will not be solved by gun control.

  • adil.smit.5 - 2012-12-17 16:13

    Why on earth do ordinary people want assault rifles at home? Hope pres Obama uses his executive powers as the average American seems intent to have virtually no gun laws in spite of these horrific massacres every few years.

      Jack - 2012-12-17 17:20

      Have you not noticed, only governments that have become alienated from their people call for gun control. Victims of gun violence are always unarmed! Open your eyes and think a little.

  • jurgen.jonker - 2012-12-17 16:21

    Why are there such raging debates over gun control, when many more people are killed each year through wreckless and drunk drivers. Why not impose "Vehicle Control" laws? The principle is the same, a deadly weopon in the wrong hands is, well, deadly...If these psycos want to hurt children, they will do so with home made pipe bombs, illegal or stolen firearms or whatever they can get their hands on to infict their brand of death and mutilation. Why punish law abiding citizens with strict laws for the actions of a few nut cases.

  • Eduannn - 2012-12-17 17:44

    As predicted - the liberal lobby for 'gun control' takes the spotlight! Someone on another forum mentioned the low gun murder rate in Japan and linked it to the strict gun control there. What he forgot to mention is that in Japan murderers are still executed to this day. Please read up 'capital punishment in Japan'. I refuse to be politically correct on this issue. Firstly re-introduce the death penalty by UN declaration for all countries with a secular democracy (Islamic countries have it in any case!). Then and only then also impement better gun control. I believe that most of these mass murders are pre-medidated over a very long period. If they know that the death penalty is a definite they may think twice. The murderers that take their own lives after killing may also stop sooner to avoid capture and in that way some lives may be spared. WHY is the Batman shooter and Anders Breijvik still alive? What more can we learn from them? What more proof do we need that they are guilty? Terminate them - period - no fanfare, no media coverage, no pity. Just a simple statement - if you choose to kill you will be terminated - end of story. Btw in Japan it seems as if the lobby for the death penalty has increased in some cases up to over 70 percent. There are also cases where murderers were initially given life sentences which were afterwards changed to the death penalty. And please do not tell me Japanese people are not highly civilized.

      Eduannn - 2012-12-17 17:49

      Here is a link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Japan#Executions_since_1993

  • jeanpierre.oberholzer - 2012-12-18 18:49

    I find it interesting that no one has actually answered the much asked question Why do people want that kind of firepower at home? and don't say because its your constitutional right, because that is a cop out and not an answer.

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