December 16th, 2012
05:32 PM ET
9 years ago

Gun debate gains traction as some lawmakers say it’s time to act

(CNN) - Lawmakers tend to stay quiet in the immediate aftermath of mass shootings, hoping to avoid attempts to politicize such tragedy.

But two days after the attack that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, lawmakers were eager to take on the gun debate Sunday - with many saying a tipping point had finally been reached to pass stricter laws.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

Another group of voices, however, argued that if Friday's tragedy proved anything, it was a need for more guns in the hands of people as a means for self-defense.

The renewed attention on gun-control laws comes as President Barack Obama visits Newtown, Connecticut, Sunday. In a tearful statement Friday, the president said, "We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years" and called for "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics."

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama supported reinstating the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, but has yet to make it a top priority since taking office. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday that it remains a commitment on Obama's second-term agenda.

In Congress, multiple gun control bills have been introduced in recent years, but not a single one has advanced to a floor vote.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Sunday the president will soon have legislation "to lead on," announcing she will introduce a bill next month to place a ban on assault weapons.

"The purpose of this bill is to get...'weapons of war' off the street of our cities," Feinstein said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The senator added she'll introduce the bill when Congress reconvenes in January and the same legislation will also be proposed in the House of Representatives. It's modeled after the original assault-weapons ban that Feinstein helped champion in 1994. The ban, however, expired at the end of its 10-year term.

"We're crafting this one. It's being done with care. It'll be ready on the first day," she said, adding that she'll soon announce the House authors.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who worked on the House version of the assault weapons ban in 1994, said Washington has been "gridlocked" over the issue because "you have both sides off in a corner."

The New York senator said if pro-gun-control lawmakers can admit "there is a constitutional right to bear arms" and if anti-gun-control lawmakers can admit that "every amendment should have some balance and some limitation," then both sides can meet in the middle.

"Maybe we can make some real progress instead of each side being off in their corner, one side saying ban guns, get rid of guns, and the other side saying don't you touch anything about guns," Schumer said.

Connecticut has some of the strictest assault-weapons laws in the country, but Gov. Dan Malloy said Sunday that the lack of similar laws at the federal level makes it difficult to keep such weapons out of the state.

He said manufacturers can use "descriptive terms to try to get around the limitations that are built into our statutes" and added many guns found in the state had been tracked from gun shows in other parts of the country.

"One can only hope that we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose," Malloy, a Democrat, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's long called for more action on gun laws, said Sunday that tougher regulations should be Obama's "number one agenda" during his second term.

"It's so unbelievable. And it only happens in America. And it happens again and again," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"We kill people in schools. We kill them in hospitals. We kill them in religious organizations. We kill them when they're young. We kill them when they're old. And we've just got to stop this," Bloomberg said.

He's not the only one calling on the White House to act. More than 126,000 people have signed a petition since Friday asking for Obama "to produce legislation that limits access to guns."

The White House is required to respond after 25,000 signatures, and so far, the newly created web document has more signatories than any of the 154 petitions listed on the White House's website.

While several Democratic lawmakers made their voices heard Sunday, Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said the deadly Connecticut school shooting could have been halted sooner if staff at the school had been equipped with guns.

"I wish to God (the principal) had had an M4 in her office, locked up, so when she heard gunfire she pulls it out … and takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," the Republican from Texas said on "Fox News Sunday."

Gohmert argued that as the country takes on a conversation about gun rights, people must be "open-minded." He said emotional reactions will naturally lead to a desire to "get rid of all guns," but he said that "you (should) use your head and look at the facts."

"Every mass killing of more than three people in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited, except for one," he said, arguing for looser gun laws so more people can be armed for self-protection. "They know no one will be armed."

Another Republican, former Education Secretary William Bennett, made a similar argument, saying the political debate should be put on hold while emotions are still high.

"The whole nation is mourning. It's an important moment. Let the tears dry before we head off into all these directions at once," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Bennett also agreed with the idea that schools should have a gun.

"I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," he said. "It would have to be someone who's trained, someone who's responsible, but my God, if you can prevent this kind of thing."

Polls have shown that the public remains divided on the gun laws. A CNN/ORC International survey conducted in August – shortly after the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting and another one at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin - found that 50% of Americans favor no restrictions or only minor restrictions on owning guns, while 48% support major restrictions or a complete ban on gun ownership by individuals except police and other authorized personnel.

Those numbers are identical to where they were in 2011, and the number who support major restrictions or a complete ban has remained in the 48%-to-50% range for more than a decade.

Though their differing opinions in the debate may be sharp, Republican and Democratic politicians all agreed on one thing Sunday: No single piece of legislation will be able to stop the violence completely. As long as there's a will and an unstable mind, there's a way, they said.

Malloy illustrated that point, telling CNN the gunman in Friday's shooting literally "shot his way into the building," breaking past the school's security system.

But retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on Fox that "the stronger our gun-control laws are, the fewer acts of violence - including mass violence - will happen in our society." He also called to restore the assault weapons ban and proposed the start of a "national commission on mass violence," telling reporters Sunday at a Newtown vigil that it would look at "violence in the entertainment culture, mental health services and, of course, gun laws."

Others also emphasized a need to boost mental health programs in the country. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who was intimately involved in the aftermath of the Aurora movie theater shooting, said Colorado has spent almost $20 million in new programs to support those dealing with mental illness.

"That's something we can do immediately without getting into some of the battles of gun legalization or restricting access to guns," he said on CNN, though acknowledging some gun laws need to be tweaked.

In particular, he said the debate should focus on access to high-capacity magazines. His support for tougher laws in the state marks a change in policy for the governor, who earlier this year said stricter gun laws would not have helped.

Still, Hickenlooper argued the "country is based on the Second Amendment."

"My grandfather taught me how to shoot and clean a 12-gauge shotgun and showed me how to hunt, and I've showed my son," he said. "That tradition is very powerful throughout this country."

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said he legally owns a shotgun and a Glock, but he's "not the person you need to worry about."

"There are millions of Americans who deal with this properly. It's our Second Amendment right to do so," the Republican congressman said on ABC's "This Week." "But we have to look at the mental health access that these people have."

While a debate over gun rights quickly sparked after the Aurora tragedy, it wasn't long before the conversation began to fade, as a presidential election squarely focused on the economy soon dominated national dialogue.

But Sen.-elect Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Americans should not expect the newly resurfaced debate to go away anytime soon.

"Frankly the tipping point should have happened a long time ago, but if this is the tipping point, then we're going to go down to Washington and prompt a conversation that's long overdue," Murphy, a Democrat, told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Sitting next to fellow Democrat Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Murphy recalled a certain plea that the elected officials encountered earlier Sunday in Newtown.

"A young man grabbed us in a church this morning, sobbing, and said 'Don't let his happen again.'"

- CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Brianna Keilar and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

soundoff (143 Responses)
  1. Informed Poster


    Because 4000 abortions happen everyday.

    And just for the record, there is no such thing as "Assault Weapon Ammo"...I mean I know you're an expert because youre on the internet. But before you try to propose a solution...make sure you know what you're talking about.

    December 17, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. karl watts

    The platitudes and comments of the gun lobby are old and tired. Take for example my “favorite”. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” No gun has ever killed a person which wasn’t operated by a human being is true but guns are the tool of choice for people who commit these heinous acts. No one in recent memory has killed 20 school children with a bow and arrow. Or the asinine comment of the congressman from Texas’ first district, [if the principal]… “Had had an M4 in her office locked up and so when she heard gunshots … she takes his head off before he can hurt those kids.” Truly moronic.

    December 17, 2012 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. Informed Poster

    @karl watts

    When was the last time you praised a hammer for building a church or a homeless shelter?

    I thought not.

    December 17, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  4. WordUpToo

    @Informed Poster

    "because 4000 abortions happen everyday."

    Make that 4,000 legal medical procedures that a woman has a right to, not to be confused with murdering 20 innocent REAL LIVE ALREADY here FULLY FORMED children.

    And as far as ammo, doesn't matter what you call it, assault or otherwise. It can and should be regulated, that way all you quick draw Mcgraws out there can own all the guns you want, you just can't use them to perpetrate death on another living being, otherwise known as "excercising my 2-amendment right" in your sick little world.

    December 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. Randall Shutt

    I can't believe the screwed logic of the anti-gun people on this post!!! Can somebody explain to me as to why an ordinary citizen shouldn't be allowed to have a gun in the 1st place?? I know some of you guys will use the age of the 2nd Amendment Law as a crutch to justify your stand on making gun ownership illegal....

    Yes, my post is a pardoy of Satish's post above mine.

    I've done nothing that says I should be prevented from owning a gun... Whether or not you can understand why I *need* or do not need the gun is irrelevant. Since when did *need* fit into the legality of anything?

    December 17, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. longtooth

    The mother of the shooter owned registered guns. Now she, her son, and twenty six innocent people are dead. As far as we know now, the shooter had no history of violence, although he obviously had "problems". The Bushmaster he used could be used for hunting or mass murder. If he had gone in with a machete, he could have killed just as many, maybe more. Americans have the right to bear arms. As has been stated, (although not often in the media), guns were banned in the school. Did the shooter care?

    December 17, 2012 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. ghostriter

    OK, cue disingenuous arguments from conservatives. And liberals.

    One conservative suggests that more laws are pointless because criminals don't follow laws, then turns around and insists that increasing the penalties of existing laws is better. So a criminal with a gun, who's probably gonna be facing life if someone is killed, is going to worry about an extra 5 years? Doubtful. We already have laws that make mandatory sentencing for using a gun in a crime.

    I also love the abortion comparison. Liberals care about this, yet let abortions go thru. Abortions are legal. Shooting someone isn't. Stupid comparison. However a great comparison is comparing this to drug laws. Making drug illegal only made folks rich. Yet, conservatives are not budging on those. And while there is no right to use drugs, they are not denied either. Not only that, but making guns illegal means that we can arrest these folks for buying, selling, using, possessing, etc said weapons. It is not pointless, but it can prevent those weapons from being used by those who would use them maliciously.

    My personal daily favorite: That someone attacked students in China with a knife. I'd be willing to bet that China has gun laws, so he probably HAD to use a knife. Never enters into the minds of conservatives.

    I don't know the answer. But I know it's not what conservatives are suggesting and what liberals want is out of the question.

    December 17, 2012 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Informed Poster


    You asked why it was a topic...I answered.

    You assume alot there sparky. One were not all gun nuts or crazy people. Some of us like hunting, or target shooting, or making things that save lives. Why do you want to take something away from me, when I didnt break the law? Inf fact I had to jump through ALOT of hoops to make sure I can enjoy my 2nd Amendment Rights. Should I take away your car because some drunk idiot killed someone last night in a DUI?

    December 17, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. JD

    Now it's if the teachers were armed, well if the movie theater personnel were armed, if the bus drivers were armed, if pilots were armed....wait a minute they are, one of them accidently shot himself with his own pistol putting a lot of passengers in danger in an airplane. Does it take your own family being harmed before you get it? I hope not. We need to do something. This boy used the same kind of gun that I carried through 3 wars fighting an enemy with. Only difference was mine had a worn sear spring so it could fire automatically. Something has to be done one way or the other.

    December 17, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  10. Randall Shutt

    One could use a 7 shot .357 magnum for mass murder... One could use a .22 revolver for mass murder. Actually, 3 .22 revolvers loaded with 6 rounds each (or 7 depending on the gun) would be far easier to conceal than a single rifle and would have 18 or 21 shots without reloading...

    Furthermore, you can buy 100 rounds of shotgun ammo at Wal Mart for < $40.00. There are equally cheap boxes of 100 or so .40 cal or 9mm at Wal Mart.

    Where does the gun control lobby want to go with this? 100% gun illegalization? Or nothing? A half-measure is useless. It'd be akin to fumigating half of your home for a bed bug infestation rather than doing the entire thing. On the other hand, good luck repealing the 2nd Amendment. I doubt you could get enough politicians and/or states to agree. Beyond that, you could have per-state legislation to regulate guns into submission, but again good luck with that in many of the more rural states. Then folks can just buy in one state and drive to another and do whatever they had planned on doing in the first place.

    December 17, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. ghostriter

    What idiots. Knives have more than one purpose. Cars have more than one purpose. What is the purpose of a gun? It only has one.

    There is a reason we restrict things like explosives and the like. It's because while we believe in the right to bear arms, we don't think it's intelligent to let folks have grenades. It's because a grenade also only has one purpose. Or more to the point, weapons have one main use. The main use of a car is transportation. Not to run someone over.

    Again, useless analogies......

    December 17, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. Ykcyc

    @Satish & Steffie
    "Can somebody explain to me as to why an ordinary citizen need a gun in the 1st place??"
    If you were in that school, unarmed and facing a crazed murderer, you would not be asking such stupid questions.
    Until the government can guarantee safety to all citizens, I personally have the right to defend myself against lunatics like that.
    There are already laws in place to control the sale and possession of firearms. If these laws are not working, what makes you think that any more laws will be more effective to stop people who don't care about any law in the first place?
    Using your “logic”, let's pass laws against hurricanes and suicide bombers.
    Supposedly you have a brain – try to use it once in a while.

    December 17, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. ghostriter

    Comical. One conservative doesn't want guns banned, but violent TV shows. SOme folks are suggesting that you can do as much damage with a knife.....Really? What are you people watching Rambo? Tell you what, you take the knife and I'll take the gun and let's see who's still posting tomorrow.

    Here's something you losers need to consider. Many people have been arrested for having these weapons. They are found in raids, routine traffic stops and searches. These laws may have saved someone's life by getting the gun and/or putting a criminal in jail. Now, what if that law didn't exist? The whole argument that gun laws don't restrict violent crimes is stupid. Because if you can save a life, it makes it all worth while.

    These are some simple minded arguments...yet I have a new favorite: Actually, more of a comparison. Republicans attempted to change many state laws concerning voting for a few actual cases. Because the right to vote is sacred. I'm guessing that right to life thing they fight so hard for in abortion discussions isn't as important when talking gun rights.

    So I guess the question to conservatives is does any one right outweigh another?

    December 17, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. 556

    If guns are not good for self defense then we should STOP sending guns to bigoted land stealers in Israel. I bet Bloomberg and his ilk will not like that.

    December 17, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. DRojas

    To those who use the "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Please stop repeating that excuse mindlessly and actually think of possible solutions. Be constructive. Propose something we can do:

    1. Eliminate all people? Sounds kind of radical, but point taken.
    2. Eliminate violence in people? Perfect, but way too optimistic. We, as a specie, have a fascination with violence and destruction.
    3. Give people more guns to defend themselves in schools and such? I can just see it, people killing their boss because of a bad review, teenagers stealing guns from an elderly teacher, just to play. People using their guns after getting annoyed with a bad driver on the road.
    4. Make sure only good sane people can own guns. Wait, are you implying we have reliable ways to find that out?
    5. But the second amendment says: And it was said when guns were more necessary to hunt, when people could form militia that could actually challenge the government, and when semi-automatic and automatic guns did not exist.

    Mr. President. Use the moment. Use the sorrow, the pain, the rage of a whole country, to ban guns. If we consider these mass killings acts of terror (and we should), then any American is a potential terrorist. Can't we ban guns in the hands of potential terrorists? We cannot find who they are, we cannot weed them out. Some of them don't even know the of violence inside them until something terrible happens in their lives. Please, unite the country in this sorrow and ban guns.

    Then, because America's political system is so "difficult", for the lack of a better clean adjective, it may be you cannot push forward a gun ban. Could you then, by executive order, remove all guns from the streets and band their sale to protect Americans until the time another effective solution is in place? I mean, sure Americans have the "right" to own guns, but they don't have the right to "use" guns in acts of violence.

    To the gun lovers, owners, manufacturers. Can't you just use stun guns or toy guns or something like that? Come on, grow up and think about the rest of society for a minute. Yes, you are not the center of the universe. You live in a complex society
    where some freedoms have to be given away for the common good. Your freedom ends where my nose begins... When your freedom will cost another American his/her live, you got to loose your freedom.

    Also, I'm a big believer in innovation. I'm confident that we could make very realistic guns that can't kill people.

    To the hunters. Do you really think killing animals is that different from killing humans? What is the difference? That they cannot talk? A baby deer or a child, aren't they equally defenseless? If "needed", could you use your hunting skills on humans?

    December 17, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  16. Glen

    Guns do not kill people, people kill people. If you make guns illegal, then only criminals will have guns. The world has many evil people in it and evil people will do evil.

    December 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  17. Informed Poster


    I'm pretty sure firearms are used for hunting, which is used for food. I know most people on the internet think that food comes from the grocery store but I can assure you that its not true.

    So no, the analogy is NOT useless. You merely cant see a use...I would like to remind you that YOUR freedoms (if youre a citizen of the USA) were won and the end of a firearm. So was Libya, Eygpt, Iraq, Afghanistan, France, Italy, Morocco, Grenada, and a host of others.

    They are not solely used for the destruction of humanity, but just as often to hold it up.

    December 17, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. ghostriter

    Conservatives, if guns don't kill people, why are you blaming Obama for Fast and Furious?

    December 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. ghostriter

    Informed Poster, I don't believe I said the sole purpose of guns was to kill people. Matter of fact, I never quite said what the purpose is. But that's OK, you still proved my point. The sole purpose of guns are till fire a projectile at high speeds. There is "sport" involved, but that is a secondary purpose. The main purpose of a machine that does this, it's original intention was to kill. Plain and simple.

    December 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. Randall Shutt

    @DRojas: "To the hunters. Do you really think killing animals is that different from killing humans? What is the difference? That they cannot talk? A baby deer or a child, aren't they equally defenseless? If "needed", could you use your hunting skills on humans?"

    Seriously? Where do think turkey, chicken, ham & bacon, and beef come from? The carcass of dead animals. Tasty dead animals. Please do not turn this into a debate against eating any form of meat...

    Furthermore your statement, "Could you then, by executive order, remove all guns from the streets and band their sale to protect Americans until the time another effective solution is in place" needs to be analyzed. If the POTUS were to unilaterally form an edict like this, you might actually SEE what people mean by the 2nd Amendment existing to prevent tyrannical governance from taking over. Additionally, I think you mean 'banned' and not 'band'. Finally, which police officers are going to go into every home and take all of the guns? Is the POTUS going to grant unlimited 'Search and Seizure' capabilities to the law enforcement agents who are supposed to go collect all of the guns? Will it be legal to violate my 4th amendment rights to barge in and search for guns that I may or may not have?

    December 17, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. Informed Poster


    I agree. Firearms are a tool of social engineering. Whether that be to take a life, or to save one.

    But by banning firearms, or banning ammo, etc. it will not keep either firearms or ammunition from the hands of criminals.

    Humans by their nature are a destructive species. Look at the internet, where anonymity has lead to bullying, stalking, hate crimes, child pornography, etc.

    A human determined to commit heinous acts against a population will find a way....blaming firearms is just a convenience. We as a society need to dig into the root cause. Which is personal responsibility, mental health and to some degree the moral direction of our youth. Its time to being being parents, and neighbors again. Not just a username behind a screen. And i do get the hypocrisy behind this comment, but the discussion has to start somewhere.

    December 17, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. BlackThought

    Why anyone needs a rifle that can hold more than 10 rounds is beyond me. It's not like the deer is going to shoot back. Then again some people have to feel like a big man.

    December 17, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  23. Adel

    The founding fathers when they crafted the second amendment, not in their wildest imagination did they envision such a thing as a semi-automatic weapon. At the time of that amendment, the weapons were muskets! Those are mere Toys in today's standards! Can we be reasonable and do away with the Cowboyish bravado!

    December 17, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. Eli Cabelly

    Anyone who wants to ban anyone from owning guns is shortsighted and stupid.

    Anyone who wants there to be no restrictions on gun ownership is shortsighted and stupid.

    There is a middle ground. It's called compromise.

    December 17, 2012 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  25. Doug

    I carry a gun everywhere legally allowed. I often do not go to places where it is illegal to carry. I don't believe that "Gun Free Zones" are "Killing Spree Zones" and choose to not go to those places.
    That being said, I don't think about defense from criminals with guns. I think of the German, Soviet and Chinese who were murdered by their government after gun confiscation. The Second Amendment is about keeping the government in check. It's not nice to say but it is the truth. If you want to be a "safe slave" move to England.

    December 17, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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