The Aurora shooting has sparked a debate over gun control policy and several Democratic lawmakers are now demanding that it is time to tackle the legislative issue once and for all. But gun rights advocates are resisting calls for a gun control bill.
The Hill reports that a group of Democrats are pressing for tougher gun laws in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shootings that left 12 people dead. But there is general pessimism about the success of the bill because of the powerful gun rights lobby. Republican strategists are already saying that the latest shooting will make no difference to the status quo.
According to The Huffington Post, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has urged the two presidential candidates to give an outline of their policies on federal gun laws. Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, both co-Chairmen of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, have made the most strident calls for stricter gun control law.
The Huffington Post reports that Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has said he intends to re-introduce a gun control bill that will curtail the ability of any shooter to "fire at length" without having to reload." What this means is a bill targeting high-capacity gun magazine.
According to Lautenberg's communications director Caley Gray, "If reports are correct and a high-capacity gun magazine was used to commit these awful murders, Senator Lautenberg will absolutely renew his effort to limit the availability of this dangerous firearm attachment."
Lautenberg is one of the most vocal gun control advocates in the Senate. He had introduced a bill to limit high-capacity magazines after the shooting of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In that incident, the shooter fired his gun more than 30 times without having to relead.
Early reports say that the Colorado shooter James Holmes, used a high-capacity magazine on his assault rilfe. CBS Denver reports police say James Holmes used an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 870 12-gauge shot gun and a .40 caliber Glock handgun along with another .40 caliber Glock handgun in the attacks.
“We have to face the reality that these types of tragedies will continue to occur unless we do something about our nation’s lax gun laws,” The Hill reports Lautenberg said.
A part of the debate, after news that one of the weapons used on Friday was an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, was whether to reinstate the assault weapons ban signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 but which expired 10 years later under President George W. Bush.
'Little is likely to change politically”
Gun rights proponents are resisting calls for a gun control bill. The Hill reports GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, said: "Any time there’s a horrific attack on U.S. soil where a gun is used, the left comes after the Second Amendment in a knee jerk fashion. There’s a strong, bipartisan majority in the House that supports the Second Amendment and the NRA policy viewpoint, which aligns with the majority view in public opinion, meaning little is likely to change politically.”
Many gun rights supporters argue that that law-abiding gun owners should not be forced to pay the price for criminals who commit acts of violence. Jesse Benton, a spokesman of Rep. Ron Paul, said: “Sadly, there are always bad actors who try to cynically exploit crises to advance their agenda, much like the statist elements who used the vicious attacks on 9/11 to ram through the USA PATRIOT Act and erode our Fourth Amendment protections. We are likely to see this same kind of demagoguery done with the horrible tragedy in Colorado, but Dr. Paul and his allies are unwavering in fight to protect all Constitutional rights for all Americans."
Democratic strategists are also being cautious about political risks of taking on the controversial issue of gun legislation just months before election.
Democrats have been reluctant to directly link the shooting to lax gun control laws. Most are saying that everyone should wait for law enforcement to investigate how the shooter got his firearms.
According to The Hill, when a constituent posted a comment on Rep. Mike Quigley’s (D-Ill.) Facebook page, urging the Illinois liberal and gun control advocate to "sham[e] the NRA toadies in Congress to enact some gun laws with teeth in them," Quigley replied cautiously that it would be premature to say that. He said: "Today, in this moment, let's keep the focus where it should be: on the people we've lost and those who need our support as they recover in the weeks ahead."
The Atlantic Wire points out that the cautious response from even the most vocal supporters of stricter gun control laws is because lawmakers fear retaliation from gun rights advocates especially as the general election approaches. According to The Atlantic Wire, Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 700 Republican and Democratic mayors, said: "The political reality is that the NRA is not as powerful as people believe, but there has not been enough grassroots activism and political support for tough gun laws. For members of Congress who have 50 things to care about, a vote for tougher gun laws can get you into trouble without much political reward."
And by far the strongest evidence of a fear of the political repercussions of advocating for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Colorado shooting, is Obama merely calling for "prayer and reflection."
A nation shedding crocodile tears? Gun rights advocates join Obama to "pray" for the victims
According to The Atlantic Wire, last year, the NRA spent $2.9 million on lobbying, compared to gun-control advocates who spent one-tenth of that amount, about $240,000.
One of the biggest recipients of the NRA money is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He received $7,450. Cantor, after the shooting, said in a tweet: "My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and the entire Colorado community. The Atlantic Wire reports another top recipient of NRA money, Rep.Rick Berg, R-N.D., said the shootings "are nothing short of an absolute tragedy."
The NRA also issued a brief statement after the shooting. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the community. NRA will not have any further comment until all the facts are known.”
CBS Denver reports Gallup says its polls show that Americans have grown less supportive of gun control in the last two decades.