(CNN) – Two days after a gunman who police say used legally purchased firearms killed a dozen theater-goers in a Denver suburb, the nation's political leaders began debating whether stricter controls on gun access were necessary to prevent further violence.
The question of tighter restrictions on owning guns has been largely ignored in this year's presidential campaign, and Democrats, who in the 1990s were vocal in pushing for tighter gun laws, rarely address the issue today.
That silence, however, was sharply criticized by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said Sunday that President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney had a responsibility to lay out a strategy for combating gun violence in America.
"This requires - particularly in a presidential year - the candidates for president of the United States to stand up and once and for all say, yes, they feel terrible. Yes, it's a tragedy. Yes, we have great sympathy for the families, but it's time for this country to do something," Bloomberg said on CBS. "And that's the job of the president of the United States."
Both candidates, Bloomberg said, had records on restricting access to assault weapons. He pointed to an assault weapon ban Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts and a 2008 campaign promise from Obama to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.
"The governor has, apparently, changed his views, and the president has spent the last three years trying to avoid the issue, or if he's facing it, I don't know anybody that's seen him face it. And it's time for both of them to be held accountable," said Bloomberg, long an advocate for tighter access to guns.
"Leadership is leading from the front, not doing a survey, finding out what the people want and then doing it. What do they stand for, and why aren't they standing up?" Bloomberg asked.
Speaking aboard Air Force One as the president flew to meet with families of those killed in Friday's shooting, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama did not have plans to push for new laws in light of the Colorado massacre.
"The president's view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law. And that's his focus right now," Carney said Sunday, adding it was too early to determine how the issue would play in the election.
Despite Bloomberg's unequivocal call for tighter restrictions on guns, two leading voices Sunday questioned whether different rules would have prevented Friday's shooting.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," said he was willing to consider laws that could prevent similar mass killings but expressed skepticism that any action taken by the government could thwart the actions of "delusional" killers.
"I'm happy to look at anything," Hickenlooper, a Democrat, told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "But if there were no assault weapons available, and no this or no that, this guy is going to find something. He knows how to create a bomb, and who knows where the mind would have gone."
Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain expressed a similar willingness to consider all options Sunday but said that any action taken by the government would require a certain degree of demonstrated effectiveness before being enacted.
"I think that we need to look at everything, and everything should be looked at," McCain said, also on "State of the Union." "But to think that somehow gun control, or increased gun control, is the answer, in my view, that has to be proved."
Police in Colorado say Holmes set off two gas-emitting devices before spraying the theater in Aurora, Colorado, with bullets from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one of two .40-caliber handguns that police recovered.
Holmes had bought the guns legally at stores in the Denver area over the past two months, Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates said Friday. More than 6,000 rounds of ammunition were also purchased online, according to the police chief.
Hickenlooper said the fact that Holmes purchased his weapons from different venues would have made it difficult to track his steps.
"Certainly, we can try, and I'm sure we will try to create some checks and balances on these things, but it is an act of evil," Hickenlooper said. "If it was not one weapon, it would have been another, and he was diabolical."
McCain, pointing to the gun and bomb rampage last year in Norway that left 77 people dead, questioned whether greater restrictions on guns could prevent mass shootings.
"The killer in Norway was in a country that had very strict gun-control laws, and yet he was still able to acquire the necessary means to initiate and carry out a mass slaughter," McCain said.
"We had a ban on assault weapons that expired some years ago, and it didn't change the situation at all, in my view," McCain continued, referring a measure that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
That law's leading sponsor, California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, argued the opposite Sunday, saying that since the measure expired, hundreds of people have been killed using "weapons of war."
"These weapons ought to be stopped," Feinstein said on "Fox News Sunday." "That's what my bill did for 10 years."
She continued, "I have no problem with people being licensed to own a firearm. But these are weapons that you're only going to be using to kill people in close combat. That's the purpose for that weapon."
- Both parties focus on Colorado shooting in weekly addresses
- Romney calls for unity following Colorado shooting
- Obama, after shooting, tells supporters 'Such evil is senseless'
- Bloomberg demands gun action from Obama and Romney
- Campaigns pull ads after shooting
What about the rights of the 12 people who were killed and the 58 people who were injured? Where in the constitution, it says one man can buy 4 guns that can load 100 rounds without re-loading? Shouldn't the laws be changed as technological advances happen? We need gun control law that monitors gun owners and no one should be allowed to own more than one guns and no assault rifles for ordinary citizens.
It was an assault rifle? No, it was a auto-loading rifle and probably less dangerous than several hunting rifles I can think of. I concur, Magazines of HUGE capacities should be treated as are full automatic weapons, Pay a big fee and undergo a deeper background check. The assault rifle tag attached to an AR15 is hyperbole. Several states limit the magazine capacity of hunting firearms, so I as a gun owner would accept that. Unfortunately, politicians frequently, (Regularly) rewrite just before passage. As a resident of a western state, I feel Bloomberg is an arrogant moneyed politician with his own agenda. Let him run NYC, leave me alone!
Pass gun controll–ignore NRA.
John McCain is the first to call for arming unknown Syrians in order to prevent slaughter despite not knowing who these groups will kill with the weapons we give them. Why can't he see that selling assault rifles and more than a 100 rounds of ammunition (6000in this case) to an individual is crazy. No assault rifles means fewer deaths. It's not brain surgery and it's not a second amendment problem. At the time the constitution was written we had muskets. Do something or let someone else do the job. Same for Obama and Romney. Bloomberg is the only one speaking truth to power (or truth to idiots if you prefer)
Why not lobby congress to abolish the CIA and see if incidents like this cease?
If there are any ignorant niave fools who think the government woukd never do anything like this please read the now declassified Operation Northwoods.
Isn't the UN coincidently pushing a gun treaty at this very same time?
71 people shot. It could not be done without an assault rifle. Period.
It continually amazes me how easily people are willing to give up their rights when confronted with a tragedy such as this. Think about this though while those 12 people were dying 48 people died in a 24 hr period for a DUI related accident. Where is the outrage at that? Remember people have choices and just as the gunman chose to pick up an inanimate object and do his damage their are hundreds of thousands of people choosing to drive drunk. SO we should ban anyone who drinks from owning a car now?
The problem is not the gun its the idiot behind the trigger. He rigged his house to blow. If you banned the assault rifle he would have brought a bomb and taken out more than 12. You cant live in a free society and expect it to be perfect. Sadly things like these happen. We need to make an example out of him in the justice system so others see what happens to idiots like this.
The problem is if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. Sorry , but it is the truth folks. Law abiding folks like myself will obey the laws, but those with a criminal or fraudulent mindset will get guns from the black market and do their crimes anyway. They laugh at laws. So lets not get Congress to pass any laws because it will be a waste of time, time better spent on turning the economy around and getting Obama re-elected.
The sad part of this tragedy is that, everytime something of this magnitude occurs all the (liberal) politicians call for Gun Control. That is the bigger insult to th victims amd teh family of the victims. Liberals don't care for gun control. But, what they do care about is taking a tegedy like this and seducing the emotions of the victim's family and the american people.
How about we start with banning the ownership of assault weapons by civilians? Why on earth have we allowed this in our "civilized" society? You don't need an assault weapon to shoot a deer, and God help us if you think you need an assault weapon for self-protection. The only people who should have these weapons are the police and the military.
Automatic guns should be taken from gun shops, and developers of software for registration system
should program automatic alert to police if person is buying the second weapon,
effectively realizing the principle "one citizen – one gun".
In this case amendment will be kept, and there will be possible shootouts and self-defense but no killing sprees anymore
Gun control ? Try this just today the 22 July 2012 "John Mutter was asleep in his bed on Sunset Drive when an intruder poked him in the head with a shotgun.
Mutter, a paraplegic who keeps a gun nearby for protection, fatally shot the intruder, early Sunday, Licking County Coroner's investigator George Ridgeway said." Source Newark, Ohio Advocate
It's time to recognize gun owners for what they are....hobbyists. Guns are their toys.
The argument that guns are for their protection is simply a smoke screen meant to disguise this.
It makes a lot of sense to make these toys much harder to get and to use because of the immense harm they can do in the wrong hands.
MM a semi automatic is not classified as a light machine gun. I also point out that Timothy McVeigh didn't even use a gun, nor did Bin Laden. If a person has the desire to kill and a bit of imagination there isn't to much one can do about it
Anti gunners complain about what a weapon can do. They say to me you can't have fun in the country side on a Saturday afternoon blowing away some ammo. I point out cars kill people with a lot more citizens being killed but no one says why do you need a car that can go faster than the speed limit? Why do you not scream about the high performance cars thrown into the hands of teenagers?
the only ones who ever debate gun control along side crazy people are anti-gunner`s and crazy politicians trying to control free people!move forward,why keep going backwards?i`ll never make sense of these type people!
Gun control will be as successful as prohibition and the war on drugs.
Let's get rid of matches because they start forest fires. A match doesn't light itself just like a gun doesn't load and fire itself.
Bloomberg should stick to policing soft drinks.
Bloomberg is one of the few politicians in this country who has the courage to stand up to the NRA. When the American people get the same courage the carnage will end and the NRA will be history.
Bloomberg is one of the few politicians in our country who has the courage to stand up to the NRA. When the rest of the American people get the same courage the carnage will end and the NRA will eventually fade out.
If politcians like Bloomberg, Schumer, Feinsetin, Emanuel and Daley can't make us safer by the laws now at their disposal and need to enact onerous firarms controls and restrictions, then they should resign immediately and let those who are more clever do the job.
Gun control will not solve the problem. Criminals will get guns. Guns will still be on the black market. If you can't stop criminals from getting drugs, you surely will not stop them from getting guns. If they can't buy them because of restrictions, they will take up gunsmithing, and make their own. The only way to help control the situation any is to put much more severe and painful punishment upon those who use them for evil. Make them exceedingly fear the law. We will never, and I repeat NEVER control our crime problem in the U.S. until we start instituting penalties severe enough to fit the crime.
If one person in that theater had a hand gun how many shots would mister nut case gotten off? Oh right wrong way to look at it but then again with a few household ingredients he could of tossed a few pipe bombs and we wouldn't be having this discussion either would we......