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Gun Control Rhetoric Heats Up

File Photo
Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, seen here at a 1999 news conference about the gun show loophole, have been leaders of the legislative charge on gun control.

Rep. Robert Brady (Pa.) has also said he wants to sponsor a bill that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be seen as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or other federal officials.

It’s not just gun control advocates who are pushing the issue.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) wrote a note to constituents in his weekly e-newsletter questioning whether more legislation is needed.

Israel, who supports “responsible gun ownership,” wrote that “even the most ardent supporters of ‘gun rights’ owe it to our safety and their own to ask some honest questions: Did the system work? Should it be that easy for someone known to have made threatening statements, to have had police interactions and a violent streak, to be able to buy a 9 mm Glock?”

Still, Not every lawmaker sees this as an opportunity to move ahead on gun control legislation.

Rep. Fred Upton said he did not see a need for Congress to take a fresh look at gun laws in light of the shooting.

“I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment. ... There are heavy-duty penalties for those who violate those standards, as there should be, and I don’t see additional steps at this point,” the Michigan Republican said.

While tragic shootings often serve to jump-start gun control legislation, rarely does it create an opportunity for larger reform efforts.

Gun control advocates at the Brady Campaign said this incident may be different because it was a lawmaker who was targeted.

“People react differently when someone they know is affected by gun violence,” the Brady Campaign’s Chad Ramsey said. “A lot of people know Gabby Giffords. She is someone they work with, who is part of their fraternity. ... One of the things we hope that could come out of this is people take a fresh look at the laws protecting those from gun violence.”

The National Rifle Association is staying out of the gun debate for now. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to discuss the push for gun control legislation in the wake of the Tucson shooting.

“At this time anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate,” Arulanandam said in a statement.

It isn’t without precedent that the gun lobby would work with lawmakers to strengthen certain gun law provisions.

In the wake of the 2007 mass shootings at Virginia Tech, the NRA cautiously put its support behind a bill that then-Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), both considered gun-rights supporters, backed. The bill, which later became law, set aside $250 million a year for three years to help states to automate and report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Still, other Second Amendment rights advocates are already pushing back on the expected legislation. Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt said the incident shows that people who want to commit acts of violence will do so with or without more legislation.

Gun Owners of America is opposed to McCarthy’s legislation because law-abiding citizens need multiple rounds to protect themselves from a large number of attackers, Pratt said.

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