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Could The Newtown School Massacre Lead To Stricter U.S. Gun Laws?

Twenty seven wooden angels stand in a yard down the street from the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, as a mark of respect for the massacre that occurred there on December 14.
Twenty seven wooden angels stand in a yard down the street from the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, as a mark of respect for the massacre that occurred there on December 14.
By Heather Maher
WASHINGTON -- The mass shooting of children and school officials on December 14 in the state of Connecticut has sparked an urgent national conversation in the United States about the country's gun laws -- or lack thereof.

As the funerals of the victims continue, key elected officials have declared that Americans can no longer ignore the fact that the country's constitutionally protected right to gun ownership is exacting a terrible toll.

The worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history happened in 2007, when 32 people were killed by a disturbed student at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

In the five years since then, there have been at least seven similar massacres across the United States.

But none has elicited as much public outrage and calls for change as the latest killings, at the Sandy Hook Elementary school, which resulted in the deaths of 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

On the political level, President Barack Obama began the conversation, when he eulogized the victims.

"As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in Newtown [Connecticut] or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora [Colorado] or a street corner in Chicago," he said.

"These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children and we're going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Obama has been joined by senior politicians who until recently strongly defended gun rights in the United States.

'Beyond Rhetoric'

One of them is Senator Joe Manchin (Democrat-West Virginia), who ran a campaign commercial back in 2010 in which he was shown personally firing a rifle into a piece of legislation, to demonstrate his pro-gun credentials.

Speaking on NBC News, he suggested that he was now open to restrictions on assault rifles, saying, "I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle."

Manchin called on "his friends" at the National Rifle Association (NRA) to sit down with gun-control advocates and come up with a "sensible, reasonable approach."
 
"It’s time to move beyond rhetoric," he said. "We need to sit down and have a common sense discussion and move in a reasonable way. This has changed the dialogue. And it should move beyond dialogue. We need action."

The shocking events in Newtown may lead to a shift in the gun-control debate.
The shocking events in Newtown may lead to a shift in the gun-control debate.
Assault weapons have been used in several recent mass shootings, including this most recent one. Congress passed a temporary ban on assault weapons and high-ammunition clips back in 1994. But when that ban expired 10 years later, lawmakers didn’t renew it.

Until now, it was seen by many politicians as too politically risky.

As is well known, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the right to "bear arms," but the precise scope of that right has been debated for decades.

Recently, the Supreme Court affirmed citizens' individual right to own guns and rejected state and local laws that sought to limit sales of some types of weapons.

And to date, the powerful and wealthy 4 million-member NRA has targeted any politician who has sought to put forward any limitations on firearm sales.

Paradigm Shift?

But Daniel Nagin, a professor of public policy and criminology at Carnegie Mellon University, suggests that Manchin’s abrupt change of heart could be the start of a paradigm shift in Congress. “My understanding is that Senator Manchin has been sort of a very public supporter of the NRA and for a person in that position to say what he did seems to me to be quite significant," he says.

Manchin isn’t alone. Representative John Yarmuth, a Democrat from the gun-loving state of Kentucky, issued a statement that said: "I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the last six years.... The National Rifle Association has spent untold millions of dollars instilling fear in our citizens and our politicians. I believe it is more rational to fear guns than the illusory political power of the NRA."

In the wake of last week’s shooting, Senator Diane Feinstein (Democrat-California) said she will introduce legislation to ban assault weapons in January.

Republicans have been largely silent on whether they would support that bill, but many have called for a "cooling-off period" before any new laws are written. According to Nagin, the rhetoric from both sides also has to cool down.

"Unless we can somehow step back from this extreme ideological tone, I think it’s going to be very difficult from any real progress to be made on the issue," he said. "What we really need to be able to do is to talk about how to balance the legitimate uses of guns – both for things like hunting and some forms of self-protection -- with the protection of public safety.”

Americans already accept regulations on everything from alcohol to driving to the press, and gun ownership should be no different, he added.
 
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that the percentage of people who favor tough gun regulations rose sharply after last week's shooting. 

Fifty percent of those surveyed after the tragedy agreed that "gun ownership should have strong regulations or restrictions," up from 42 percent before. The number of people favoring a ban on assault style weapons rose 6 points, to 60 percent.

For its part, the group that usually has the most to say during gun-control debates has remained silent. In a statement, the National Rifle Association said only, "Until the facts are thoroughly known, [we] will not have any comment."
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: manfred rogerson from: windsor, IL
December 18, 2012 15:03
democrats will always peel away. the tough part is finding a republican to peel away.

by: Neeraj Nigam from: Virginia
December 18, 2012 22:22
How many deaths will it take
Till we understand
How many people must die
Before we stop believing the lie
How many friends must we mourn
before we ...

I am shocked that Americans today cannot understand the simple fact that our forefathers understood so well. Let me explain

1. Criminals do not care about how many laws you pass, they will do what they want. If they were to obey the laws, they would not be criminals
2. At least 99% of Americans will not harm another with guns. They will do whatever they can in to stop such attacks if they witness such events.
3. If there was just one other person with a gun, they could have prevented or substantially reduced the number of injuries or deaths that occurred.
4. Banning guns is not an option. You can destroy every gun in the world, but still a person who wants a gun will get one.

If you want to reduce the loss of lives in such attacks, the only way is to provide gun education in schools as we already provide sex education. Those in responsible positions should be encouraged to learn how to use guns and carry them.

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
December 19, 2012 01:36
Short answer: No. For a fuller explanation as to why the madness will continue, see: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/dec/15/our-moloch/


by: Martin Helander from: Malaysia
December 19, 2012 05:07
I am a strong believer in gun control. Whatever NRF does has according to the recent news, zero impact. So we can start by discarding the influence of this organization. Then take away assault weapons from the market. Don't sell them. Hand guns are less of a threat.
In Response

by: Ben
December 19, 2012 10:16
The last tragedy was not connected with the assolt weapons , and the police experts say the guns in the hands of the trained teachers is the only way to stop the shooting. Of course the assolt weapons restrictions or free trade elimination are inevitable.
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
December 19, 2012 12:51
its better to have a gun and not use it than need one and not have it. NRA

by: American Troll
December 19, 2012 12:28
The real obstacles aren't the stereotyped guns-and-Jesus paranoiacs. They're too easy to pick apart in a political argument (notwithstanding the infrequent disaster like this when one blows a gasket and takes passengers with him).

The problem is a handful of narcissists who equate hoarding weapons with philately or collecting Persian rugs. In the reverse-polarity of their minds, the rest of us are selfish for intruding on their "hobby", which they see as no one's business but their own. And since narcissists by their very nature tend to be manic and hard-working (and thus well-monied and politically engaged), their pet politicians are devoutly loyal.

So yeah, nothing's changing anytime soon. Because Freedom™.

by: Jack from: US
December 19, 2012 15:11
the US government and proponents of Big Brother are trying to capitalize on Newtown incident by taking away remaining few liberties from American people. The objective is always the same: instill fear and insecurity in the populace so the populace wil need Big Brother's "protection". If people are armed and able to defend themselves, who will need Big Brother? The first objectives of a totalitatian government, be it US government or Soviet government is always to disarm people. And shooting incidents, no matter how rare, and statistically insignificant, are used for that purpose.

by: PLT from: Geneva Switzerland
December 19, 2012 19:06
Oh please you dumb Americans!

How much longer will you insist on living in the wild wild west as your children are murdered by lunatics with assault weapons happily sold to them by lunatics in a gun shop?

Where else in the world does this happen? (apart from Norway...)
In Response

by: George from: USA
December 20, 2012 12:02
PLT, I guess you want all peoples disarmed as you Swiss have done with your army. And you call us dumb? Sorry I do not want to live in your totalitarian world. But why don't you come and see the "wild west", then you could have a informed opinion. better yet why don't you start a insurance for this type of insanity, caused by the drugs your country manufactures.

by: John Hume from: U.S. Veterans Hospital
December 19, 2012 19:10
The Second Amendment is the only thing keeping America a free country, if the leftist get thier way America becomes the new soviet union. America is already dying from leftist propaganda supporting infanticide (abortion) and the constant attack on Christianity. To attack indivigual rights because of the acts of one person is socialism, something the leftist love about thier leader Obama. This constant attack on American values by the leftist must end by whatever means are available.

by: harderwijk from: Australia
December 20, 2012 08:05
Why only 27 angels? None for Adam then?

How many victims were there?

Who among us can say, today, in the cold hard glare of the here and now, with any conviction, or moral justification, that the person s/he now remembers s/he was, before 9/11/01 and before 12/14/12, survived unscathed, and is as alive and carefree as s/he remembers s/he was then?

What does it mean to survive a train wreck? An earthquake? A tsunami? High-risk, life-saving surgery?

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
John Donne [1572-1631]

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