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Recent shootings fuel gun debates

February 8, 2013

At least sixteen mass shootings have occurred in 2012. Gun violence that resulted in 12 deaths at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, six deaths at a Sikh temple in a suburb near Milwaukee, Wis, and 26 deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., gained national attention and forced a debate on how to prevent mass shootings.

Republicans believe there should be limited restrictions on the Second Amendment and there is a mental health issue instead of a gun issue. Democrats believe in regulating specific gun type, size and availability to the public.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the largest gun lobby promoting gun rights in the United States.  CEO Wayne LaPierre hosted a press conference (covered by CNN) in response to the Newtown shooting.  In his statement he blamed “gun free” school zones, violent movies, music and video games for the increase in gun violence at schools and abroad. He noted that legislators in Congress will focus on gun regulations, but the real problem, according to him, is a lack of help for the mentally ill.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said LaPierre at the December 21 NRA press conference. His solution was the “National School Shield Emergency Response Program.” This program focuses on putting an armed police officer in every school in the country. The program promotes safe schools by arming security, giving student and teacher training and by updating building designs.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has already drafted the
“Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.” According to Senator Feinstein’s web site, this ban “prohibits sale, transfer, importation and manufacture of 157 dangerous military style assault weapons; bans high capacity ammunition magazines.”

Twenty Democratic Senators have co-sponsored Senator Feinstein’s bill. No Republican Senators have co-sponsored the bill.

In a press conference covered by Alexander Bolton from The Hill, Senator Feinstein said, “Getting this bill signed into law will be an uphill battle, and I recognize that — but it’s a battle worth having.”

In addition to legislation moving through Congress, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also presented gun and health care regulations focusing on mental health in a press conference on January 16. As seen on the White House website, the Obama administration highlights 23 “executive actions” which are goals set by the president. Executive actions such as proposing full background checks before returning seized guns to owners, reviewing safety standards for gun locks and safes and providing law enforcement and school officials with training for active shooter situations are aimed to prevent gun violence as well.

Congressional Republicans have remained opposed to most, but not all gun regulations. According to Ed O’Keefe and Philip Rucker from the Washington Post, “Two GOP lawmakers from suburban districts announced plans to co-sponsor legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did lay out a plan this week providing legislation that would supply, “Mental-health information to law enforcement databases used to conduct background checks for gun purchases,” according to O’Keefe and Rucker. Parties in power have provided solutions to gun violence since the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings. Legislation, “executive action” and interest group activities will push one or the other to be put in place.

Joe Florio
Photo Editor

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