Democrats in the US say meaningful action in the wake of last week’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, must include a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the US deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness.
Several Democratic lawmakers and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman said on Sunday that it was time to take a deeper look into the recent spate of mass shootings and what can be done about it.
Gun control was a hot topic in the early 1990s, when the US Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons. However, since that ban expired in 2004, few people in the US have wanted stricter laws and politicians say they do not want to become targets of a powerful gun rights lobby.
Gun rights advocates said that might all change after the latest shooting killed 20 children aged six or seven.
“I think we could be at a tipping point ... a tipping point where we might actually get something done,” US Senator Chuck Schumer said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Schumer and other Democrats, as well as Lieberman, said they want to ban the sale of new assault weapons and make it harder for mentally ill individuals to obtain weapons. Lieberman said a new commission should be created to look at gun laws and the mental health system, as well as violence in movies and video games.
“Assault weapons were developed for the US military, not commercial gun manufacturers,” Lieberman said before a vigil in Newtown on Sunday night.
“This is a moment to start a very serious national conversation about violence in our society, particularly about these acts of mass violence,” said the senator, who is retiring next year.
US Senator Dianne Feinstein said she will introduce legislation next year to ban new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.
“It can be done,” Feinstein told NBC’s Meet the Press of reinstating the ban despite deep opposition by the National Rifle Association.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said US President Barack Obama could use executive powers to enforce existing gun laws, as well as throw his weight behind legislation like Feinstein’s.
“It’s time for the president, I think, to stand up and lead and tell this country what we should do — not go to Congress and say: ‘What do you guys want to do?’” Bloomberg told NBC’s Meet the Press.
Gun rights activists have remained largely quiet on the issue since Friday’s shooting, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows.
David Gregory, the host of Meet the Press, said NBC invited all 31 “pro-gun” senators to appear on Sunday’s show and all 31 declined. All eight Republicans on the US Senate Judiciary Committee were unavailable or unwilling to appear on CBS’ Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer said.
Republican Representative Louie Gohmert was the sole representative of gun rights’ activists on the various Sunday political talk shows.
In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Gohmert defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.
“I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands. But she takes him [the shooter] out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,” Gohmert said.
Gohmert also argued that violence is lower in cities with lax gun laws and higher in cities with stricter laws.
“The facts are that every time guns have been allowed — conceal-carry [gun laws] have been allowed — the crime rate has gone down,” Gohmert said.