WASHINGTON | Calls from some Democrats for tougher gun control laws in the wake of the Colorado shooting rampage have run smack into the political reality that Congress hasn’t passed strict legislation in more than a decade and has no plans to act this election year.
“No matter what piece of idea that comes forward … policy is always better when you study and shoot for a solution than shoot for a political answer,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 Republican in the House, told reporters Monday. “And knowing what political nature we’re in right now and knowing we’re coming just after the weekend, I’d like to focus on the families first. But I’d like to have all the facts before we move legislation.”
Friday’s shooting left 12 people dead and 58 others injured at a packed midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a suburban Denver movie theater. A 24-year-old former doctoral student, James Holmes, was arrested in the case. The latest spasm of violence revived calls for stricter gun controls, with Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., pressing for Congress to reinstate an assault-style weapons ban. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., renewed his call for banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“We ought to be taking a look at how this guy was able to accumulate so much ammunition,” Perlmutter said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program. “He had enough ammunition for, like, a small army. I mean, this is — there’s something wrong about that.”
Questioned about Perlmutter’s plea, McCarthy reflected the congressional reluctance for pushing deeply divisive gun control measures. Opinion polls show support for stricter laws diminishing despite the mass killings of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and now the rampage in Aurora, Colo. The National Rifle Association also remains one of the most powerful lobbying groups, pressuring Republicans and Democrats to oppose any legislation that they see as an infringement on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney echoed McCarthy.
“I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment and I also believe that this is … with emotions so high right now, this is really not a time to be talking about the politics associated with what happened in Aurora. This is really a time, I think, for people to reach out to others in their community that need help or a comforting hand. Let’s do that for now and then we can get on to policy down the road,” Romney said in an interview with Larry Kudlow on CNBC.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a bill making a state assault weapons ban permanent.
Questioned about the law, Romney said it was “combination of efforts both on the part of those that were for additional gun rights and those that opposed gun rights, and they came together and made some changes that provided, I think, a better environment for both, and that’s why both sides came to celebrate the signing of the bill.”
Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons in 1994. When the ban lapsed in 2004, neither President George W. Bush nor lawmakers made any significant attempt to pass an extension.
In the Senate on Monday, lawmakers observed a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s shooting.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., read the names of the 12 victims. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “How can you make sense of something so senseless?”