In the wake of the shooting in Colorado last week, lawmakers clashed on the Sunday talk shows over the adequacy gun control measures currently on the books.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was part of San Francisco city government when Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in 1978, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg both called for increased gun control, which they argued may have helped prevent the tragic shooting in an Aurora movie theater that left 12 dead and more than 50 injured.
But Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) were skeptical that increased gun control measures would have made a difference.
“I think we have to sit down and really come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America,” Feinstein said on "Fox News Sunday."
“I have no problem with people being licensed buying a firearm, but these are weapons that you are only going to be using to kill people in close combat,” Feinstein said. “That is the purpose of that weapon. You can put a hellfire switch on it, you can fire semi-automatic very rapidly. This drum was huge, he had 100 bullets in it and he went out to kill a lot of people.”
Feinstein, who sponsored an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, said she hopes that the tragedy generates a discussion about whether it’s time to revive the measure.
“I would hope there would be a sane national conversation on guns,” Feinstein said. “President Bush said he supported the continuation of the assault weapons legislation. President Obama, Mr. Romney I think they should give it a lot of consideration.”
“There has been no action because there has been no outrage out there,” she added. “It’s a lot tougher now because the [pro] gun organizations have become so strong.”
But Republicans cast doubt on whether more gun control would be effective. McCain, also on CNN, pointed to the mass shootings at a summer camp in Norway last year.
"The killer in Norway ... was in a country that had very strict gun control laws, and yet he was still able to acquire the necessary means to initiate and to carry out a mass slaughter," he said.
Noting that the right to bear arms is protected by the constitution, McCain said the case for more gun control laws would have to be proved to work.
Johnson, who appeared with Feinstein on Fox, said more legislation would not have stopped the shooting.
“He’s a sick, demented, evil individual, and unfortunately I don’t think that society can keep sick, demented individuals from obtaining any type of weapon to kill people,” Johnson said.
“The left always uses the term assault rifles, what they are really talking about is semi-automatic weapons that really are used in hunting. That’s what happens in Wisconsin. These are rifles that people use in hunting,” Johnson continued.
“It’s really an issue of freedom. I swore an oath to defend the Constitution, and part of the constitution is the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, and these types of laws infringe on that right and I don’t agree with them,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said that if someone with a concealed carry permit had a gun in the theater, some of the deaths and injuries might have been avoided.
“That is one of the rationales behind concealed carry where criminals have to actually be a little concerned before they commit a criminal act that maybe somebody could stop them, and I think that is the truth,” Johnson said. “I think if somebody, a responsible individual, had been carrying a weapon maybe, maybe they could have prevented some of those deaths, some of those injuries. I think that is just the truth."
Hickenlooper, also appearing on CNN, also said he did not believe stronger gun control laws could have stopped the shooter.
"This is a case of evil, of somebody who was an aberration of nature," he said. "If it wasn't one weapon, it would have been another."
Hickenlooper said that he will be looking at ways to stop this kind of incident, but he sounded skeptical.
"I'm not sure there's any way in a free society to be able to do that," he said.