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In Wake of Tragedy, Little Appetite for Gun Control Among House Republicans

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Goodlatte, the chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over firearm regulations, said he does not favor tighter gun-control measures.

The top Republican with jurisdiction over firearms regulations in the 113th Congress has shut down talk of gun control in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, a sign that the House will be the largest obstacle to overhauling federal gun laws.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday that he does not favor tightening controls on firearms, such as banning assault weapons or high-capacity clips, after 27 people, including 20 children, were killed by a shooter in Newtown last week.

“We’re going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support,” he said.

Goodlatte, who has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, has been elected by his conference to chair the House Judiciary Committee next year, where he will have jurisdiction over firearms regulations.

His comments are the most unequivocal statement yet from a high-ranking Republican shutting down the idea of gun control after what happened in Connecticut.

They come as top Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, have promised gun control legislation as a reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, declined to answer when asked in front of his office Tuesday whether he would also rebuff gun control efforts next year.

His spokesman, however, said later that Republicans will weigh proposals if Obama puts them on the table.

“We all join President Obama in mourning the victims of this awful tragedy and we will stand with their families and friends,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “If the president has specific ideas in mind, we will listen. But right now our focus should be on the victims, their families and their friends.”

The reserved tone from Boehner’s office indicates the sensitivity with which the issue of gun control is being handled, particularly in response to the anguish that the deaths of 20 6- and 7-year-old children has wrought on the country.

But the response is also an indication that Boehner, who has an “A” rating from the NRA, is not going to lead one way or the other in the discussion and is certainly not going to rush any legislation to the floor.

Instead, he will wait for Obama to act and wait to see if the feverish public sentiment that has dredged up one of the most sensitive public policy issues will subside, as it did after a movie theater shooting this year in Aurora, Colo., and after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot at a constituent event in January 2011.

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