Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

December 22, 2012

Gun control debate heating up in statehouses

ATLANTA — As President Barack Obama urges tighter federal gun laws, state legislators around the country have responded to the Connecticut school shooting with a flurry of their own ideas that are likely to produce fights over gun control in their upcoming sessions.

There is momentum in two strongly Democratic states to tighten already-strict gun laws, while some Republicans in four other states want to make it easier for teachers to have weapons in schools. One Republican governor, however, used his power this week to block the loosening of restrictions.

The question is whether public outrage after the slayings of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., will produce a meaningful difference in the rules for how Americans buy and use guns. Or will emotions and grassroots energy subside without action?

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and I’ve never seen something like this in terms of response,” said Brian Malte, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, based in Washington, D.C. “The whole dynamic depends on whether the American public and people in certain states have had enough. No matter if it’s Congress or in the states, their voices will be heard. That’s what will make the difference.”

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a report Thursday showing that the school shooting in Connecticut has led to more discussion about gun policy on social media than previous rampages. The report says users advocating for gun control were more numerous than those defending current gun laws.

The National Rifle Association, a powerful organization that has successfully lobbied for expanded gun rights, remained largely silent after the shooting until its top lobbyist on Friday called for armed guards at every school.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said Wayne LaPierre, who refused to take questions after making extended remarks.

Some of the legislative proposals reflect renewed conviction in the long-held beliefs of lawmakers. Legislators, mostly Democrats, in California and New York plan a push to tighten what are already some of the most stringent state gun-control laws. Many Democrats in presidential swing states are pushing for tighter restrictions, while others take a wait-and-see approach. Meanwhile, rank-and-file Republicans in Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida have called for making it easier for teachers and other adults to have weapons in schools.

Other proposals predate the Newtown massacre. Lawmakers in the GOP-led states of Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Pennsylvania had been considering before the shootings proposals to loosen restrictions on employees having guns in their vehicles on work property.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, offered Thursday what appears to be a growing theme among GOP leaders: that the shooting should prompt discussions about mental health treatment, not anti-gun laws.

“Anybody can get a gun, and when bad people get guns, they’re going to do what they want to do. No amount of gun control can stop someone from getting a gun when they want to get it,” she said. “What we can do is control mental health in a way we treat people who don’t know how to treat themselves.”

Yet Republican Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan this week vetoed a law that would have allowed certain gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public places, including schools, though he attributed his action to the details of the law, not Newtown. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin this week declined to rule out proposed gun restrictions Democratic lawmakers are pushing in Madison, though he echoed Haley’s emphasis on mental health.

The Democrats assuming control of the Minnesota Legislature plan to evaluate the state’s gun laws, though no concrete proposals have emerged yet.

“I don’t have an answer today,” said the state’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. “There’s a limit to what society can do to protect people from their own folly.”

In San Francisco, Ben Van Houten of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “Keeping public pressure on legislators is critical here. Legislators have been able to duck their responsibility to keep us safe.”

A Pew Research Center survey taken Dec. 17-19, after the shooting, registered an increase in the percentage of Americans who prioritize gun control (49 percent) over gun owner rights (42 percent).

Those figures were statistically even in July. But 58 percent opted for control over individual rights in 2008, before Obama took office. The December telephone survey included 1,219 adults in all 50 states. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Van Houten, whose organization provides model legislation to lawmakers, noted Snyder’s veto in Michigan. Less important than the details of the proposed conceal-and-carry law, he said, is that a Republican nixed a relaxation of existing law.

Also noteworthy is a California Republican who previously opposed more gun restrictions. State Sen. Ted Gaines, who represents Sacramento suburbs, said this week that he’ll introduce a bill to permanently disallow gun ownership for anyone deemed by the courts to be a danger to others because of a mental diagnosis. Current California law allows those individuals to recover gun rights after treatment.

Of course, those examples don’t involve new restrictions for the general population, which the NRA has successfully blocked in most states in the past.

In recent years, NRA’s statehouse efforts have centered on expanding the right to carry guns in public places and adopting “stand your ground” laws that expand self-defense rights beyond a person’s home. Just four states — Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming — allow concealed weapons without a permit. But the NRA has over many years chipped away at the burdens to get a license in the remaining states and, more recently, shifted to eliminating exceptions that allow churches, schools, universities and businesses to ban weapons on their property.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have jointly rejected the ideas of increasing gun presence on campus. The proposals generally take two forms: eliminating the exceptions so gun owners can choose to carry on campus or specifically requiring that school personnel be trained and armed.

“We don’t believe the solution is to put more guns in the building, but keep them from getting in,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. But he argued that prevention goes beyond gun control. He said NEA wants more money to finance school counselors and psychologists, better public mental health access generally, and state laws that crack down on bullying.

“It’s time to emphasize how all of those services and that comprehensive approach play a role in keeping kids safe,” he said.

As advocates talk to lawmakers, Van Roekel added, they should demand more than just a yes or no. “Don’t just tell me what you won’t do. Tell me what you are willing to do to try to fix this problem. If you vote no, come with an alternative.”

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results