(Corrects spelling of Newtown in penultimate paragraph. For more on the school shootings, go to EXT8.)
U.S. Senate Republicans said bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines aren’t the proper response to the Dec. 14 killing of 20 elementary school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
“We need real solutions to a significant problem in our country, and I’m not sure passing another law in Washington is going to actually find a real solution,” Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said yesterday he opposed reinstating a ban on assault weapons. “I don’t want to say we’re one law away from solving this problem,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” A ban “didn’t work before and it won’t work in the future.”
Their comments came as National Rifle Association Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre, NRA President David Keene and former Representative Asa Hutchinson, an Arkansas Republican leading the gun-rights group’s efforts to improve school safety, rejected calls for new legislation restricting guns. They suggested instead stationing armed guards in schools, tracking mentally ill people and addressing violent video games and other forms of entertainment.
“This town wants to argue about gun control,” LaPierre said on NBC. “I don’t think it’s what will work.”
The Fairfax, Virginia-based NRA’s opposition will make it harder to enact any restrictions on guns, Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“It’s going to be a battle,” said Lieberman, who is retiring. “But the president, I think, and vice president, are really ready to lead the fight. It’s going to take the American people getting organized, agitated and talking to their members of Congress.”
President Barack Obama has named Vice President Joe Biden to head a task force to look at gun regulations, mental health treatment, violence in society and other issues in the wake of the Connecticut shootings. Adam Lanza, 20, used a semiautomatic rifle to gun down the children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Lanza, who also killed his mother, Nancy, then turned the gun on himself, police said.
Obama and Democratic lawmakers, including some with top ratings from the NRA, have called for considering bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as requiring background checks for gun purchasers, including at gun shows.
An assault weapons ban enacted in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress was allowed to expire 10 years later by President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans.
In a Dec. 17-18 CNN/ORC International poll, 62 percent of respondents supported a ban on military-style assault weapons and a prohibition against high-capacity ammunition magazines. Another 95 percent favored mandatory background checks on gun buyers. The survey of 620 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Two Republicans appearing on Sunday talk shows, Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina, didn’t immediately reject new gun laws.
“I’m happy for a commission to look into every aspect,” Isakson said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Lieberman said the NRA should be willing to discuss “the availability of guns,” which he said is a contributing factor to violence. “I had hoped they’d come to the table and say everything is on the table,” he said.
LaPierre said the NRA was unlikely to get involved in the administration’s task force.
“If it’s a panel that’s just going to be made up of a bunch of people that, for the last 20 years, have been trying to destroy the Second Amendment, I’m not interested in sitting on that panel,” LaPierre said on NBC.
Keene said the NRA is turning its attention to what officials consider better ways to keep school children safe, such as armed guards.
“If we’re looking at things that are effective, let’s talk about them,” Keene said on CBS. “But first, let’s talk about protecting our kids.”
Hutchinson, a former Homeland Security Department undersecretary, said debating gun control “is really the wrong debate to have” since it would divert attention from making schools more secure.
“If we go down that path, we’re going to miss the focal point of providing safety,” Hutchinson said on ABC. He said armed federal air marshals have improved airline safety without turning planes into armed camps.
“Are our children less important to protect than our air transportation?” Hutchinson said. “I don’t think so. So I think it’s a very reasonable approach.”
Democrats, including Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who helped lead the fight in the House for the 1994 assault weapons ban, said that the NRA’s proposals weren’t enough.
“Trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes,” Schumer said on NBC.
Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the Newtown deaths highlight the need to impose some new rules.
“Simply saying existing gun laws are enough, the status quo’s acceptable, didn’t pass my gut check as a father,” Warner said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com.