The debate has also widened to include questions about the treatment of mentally ill people, another factor common to most recent mass killings in the US. Joe Lieberman, another Connecticut senator, called for a national commission to examine the US’ gun laws and mental health system as well as the role violent video games and movies have in mass shootings.
“We’ve got to hear the screams of these kids and see their blood to keep this from happening again,” he said.
Pro-gun rights politicians have gone to ground. NBC’s Meet the Press said it invited the 31 senators, Republican and Democrat, who openly oppose stricter gun control laws to appear on the program with Bloomberg and Feinstein. None accepted.
The National Rifle Association, the largest and most influential of the gun rights lobby groups, has been similarly silent since the massacre, but others in the movement are pushing back.
Gun Owners of America blamed legislators who support gun control for the Newtown massacre.
“Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands,” director Larry Pratt said. “Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”
Before the Newtown shooting, the momentum was with the gun lobby. Last week, Michigan passed a law permitting gun owners to carry concealed weapons in schools.
The calls for tougher legislation are a direct challenge to Obama whom critics accuse of kowtowing to the gun lobby.
Since coming to power he has signed laws allowing people to carry guns in national parks and failed to use his existing powers to block the import of semi-automatic weapons and clips that hold large numbers of bullets.
The president was also silent when the US Supreme Court struck down state and local restrictions on gun ownership, and when some southern states passed laws permitting guns in bars and churches.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named after former White House press secretary James Brady, who was badly wounded during an assassination attempt against then-president Ronald Reagan, gave Obama an “F” grade on gun control.
In a report called Failed Leadership, Lost Lives on the president’s gun policy after a year in office, the Brady campaign accused the president of giving in to the “guns anywhere mentality of the gun lobby.”
It said he “muzzled Cabinet members who expressed support for stronger gun laws.”
“His White House staff removed statements from the White House Web site that declared support for gun violence prevention laws,” the report said.