Congress still cool to gun control

After the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cautioned Tuesday against a “rush to judgment” on stricter gun control. A leading House supporter of restrictions on firearms conceded passage of legislation would be difficult.

“I think we ought to be thinking about the families and the victims and not speculate about future legislative battles that might lie ahead,” said Reid, a view expressed by other Democratic leaders the day after the shootings that left 33 dead on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Democrats traditionally have been in the forefront of efforts to pass gun control legislation, but there is a widespread perception among political strategists that the issue has been a loser in recent campaigns. It was notably absent from the agenda Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled earlier this year when the party took control of the House and Senate for the first time in more than a decade.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, a few Democrats renewed the call for gun control legislation, and more are expected to join them.

“I believe this will reignite the dormant effort to pass commonsense gun regulations in this nation,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who was a leader in the failed drive to renew a ban on certain types of assault weapons that expired in 2004.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., was one of very few lawmakers to defer pushing for gun control in the early hours after the shootings. “There will be time to debate the steps needed to avert such tragedies,” he said on Monday, “but today, our thoughts and prayers go to their families.”

By coincidence, Kennedy and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., are scheduled to attend a demonstration Friday at a firing range used by U.S. Capitol Police to draw attention to microstamping, a procedure by which serial numbers are placed on ammunition casings. The goal is to allow police and other investigators to quickly track ammunition to the gun that fired it.

The two lawmakers support legislation to require microstamping for all guns manufactured after 2009, and aides to both said they planned to go ahead with the demonstration.

Overall, though, said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., “It is a tough sell” to pass gun control legislation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., held a brief meeting on the subject to discuss possible legislation, including a proposal for an instant background check for gun purchasers. But there was no apparent eagerness by Reid, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., or her to predict Democrats would lead a drive to toughen existing laws.

One senior Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, said gun rights advocates are simply too influential to allow a tightening of gun control laws. “It’s a regional thing, it’s a cultural thing,” Rangel said, arguing that even in areas where 85 percent of the people support more restrictions, the 15 percent minority is far more active and outspoken.

Less than a month ago, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders abruptly pulled legislation to give the District of Columbia voting representation in the House. Republicans were using the issue to try to force a vote on repeal of the capital’s handgun ban, and Democrats feared it would pass.

Hoyer told reporters he thought and hoped the shootings at Virginia Tech would make it harder for Republicans to prevail when the voting rights bill returns to the House floor later this week.

He refused to be drawn into a discussion of the longer-term political consequences of the shooting, saying, “All I am saying is there will be a debate. I am not going to enter into the debate today.”

Not all lawmakers were as reticent.

Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, one of Congress’ most persistent advocates of gun rights, noted that the student who police say was the shooter at Virginia Tech had brought a weapon onto campus in violation of restrictions. He said he doubted a law could be passed that would protect “any of us when somebody who is mentally deranged decides to do this.”

President Bush said in an interview with ABC News that he expects a debate on gun policy, but now is not the time.

“I think when a guy walks in and shoots 32 people it’s going to cause there to be a lot of policy debate,” he said. “Now is not the time to do the debate until we’re actually certain about what happened. And after we help people get over their grieving. But yeah I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion.”

One law enforcement official has said that the gunman’s backpack contained a receipt for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol. The gunman held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, federal officials said. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

Democrats have grown less supportive of gun control legislation as a party in the past decade.

After the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, then-Vice President Al Gore cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate on legislation to reduce the availability of certain firearms. He and other gun control advocates claimed victory, but many strategists believe the vote hurt him in the 2000 presidential election.

Gun control tends to win favor among suburban voters, but it often stirs opposition in less heavily populated areas

So far this year, there has been little evidence that Democrats feel otherwise after winning control of the House by picking up seats last fall in parts of Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Arizona and elsewhere where hunting is popular.



Associated Press Writers Jim Abrams and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Sandy Price

    We have a government determined to disarm and dumb down the citizens of America. If we read the history of cultures of this planet we are falling into the same type of control. Since the early 60s our own government has been focused on making the decisions on everything we do daily. Between the government and many churches our own citizens have lost their ability to take control of their lives. “We must never question authority” and it leads to a government of killers.

    Our government has been waiting to disarm us since we showed some spine over the Vietnam war. At Kent state it was our government who shot up the students.

    Every student on the campus of VT and all campuses should be trained to watch for out-of-control classmates. In our current society where rage is within many of us, to even talk about disarming Americans is ridiculous.

    I see no problem with a University advertising that their students and staff are armed and ready to protect themselves and their campus. I see no reason this same campus can’t teach gun use and how to spot someone who is unbalanced.

    Americans are angry, and rightly so. That same government who wants to disarm us has caused more unnecessary deaths than any kid on a campus. Parents can’t seem to train behaviors and character building so let the schools teach self-defense.

    Not all schools should be armed but many could be trusted to protect their students using their own judgment with their own arms.

    Guns did not kill those kids, a wacked out armed kid did. A lazy and inept College Administration did. Baning guns would have not deterred him for a minute.

  2. wolffreetorun

    “Rush to judgment” on gun control? How does all these mass killings constitute a “rush to judgment”??? Isn’t it obvious we need to have stricter gun control??? How many more people have to die before congress quits bowing to the NRA lobbyists???? Congress needs to quit worrying about how much money is involved & start worrying about public support & wishes. They seem to think they can do what they want no matter what the public wants. This a government FOR & BY the people???? I THINK NOT!!!!

  3. Roadapple00

    I agree with Sandy. Gun control is not the answer. It is a shame that things in this country have changed to the point that both parents in a household have to work. What we need here is parental control. You rarely, if ever, heard of this kind of thing happening in the 50’s or 60’s. Why? Because when kiddies came home from school, there was a parent at home waiting for them. Now, both parents have to work to make ends meet and who are the kids with? A day care person? A baby sitter? The children do not learn the values of the parents, rather, the care giver. Parents can spot things about their own children, but most of them are too busy with their own lives and kids get ignored. Then when something like this happens, people want to blame everybody else. Wake up people.

  4. drich291

    How many people have to die so that some people can have their weapons? There is no way we can legislate against unbalanced people doing things like this, but the prevalence of weapons and easy access to them in our society increases the probability they will use guns to act out. Further, in a chaotic situation like Norris Hall, armed students would have made things even more dangerous and deadly.

    We don’t need to ban weapons, but we need to severely restrict when and where they can be used. And maybe we need to consider firearm insurance

  5. Wayne K Dolik

    Remember the shooting in the Texas tower at the University years ago? Two brave men went up to the top of the Tower and shot the Perp 8 times. This was an act of bravery. We did not see this at VT. Instead, the Shooter probably was running low on ammunition when he shot himself! The campus was crawling with Police beforehand as they were having bomb threats; for two weeks. Swat let the system down. When you have a killer in the mix, the response must be swift.

    #2 VT was told they had a problem student. They did not act responsibly. This individual needed Mental Health Care desperately. The school failed to follow up.

    #3 Prior behavior was another failure. There was a stalking event, which was not followed up on.

    #4 There was a report from the Parents to authorities that they felt that their son was suicidal, which was not followed up on.

    I saw the official report this morning. A whole lot of people in charge were ducking for cover. Police, VT, Medical Care, and the entire system let us down.

  6. Carl Nemo

    People best open their eyes and pay attention! Visualize a totally disarmed AmeriKa except for the military and law enforcement. Think again of how well our elected disappointments have been taking care of business in the past 30 years or so. We are currently in a war based on “cooked” intelligence courtesy of the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cheney rogue intelligence pipeline. The House, The Senate, and the Executive branch are already dissing the greater American electorate’s wishes. To quote Bush on his first bid for office when he told a questioning citizen/reporter “who cares what you think”! When the guy identified that he worked for a news org, then Bush shouted, well then “just get it right”…?! The point being is evidently what “we the people” think doesn’t count to this collective cabal of “republicrats” who are all marching to the beat of their NWO/MIC/AIPAC controllers.

    We’ve all witnessed how law enforcement treats protestors at recent political conventions; i.e., the Republican convention etc. It was revealed that NYC law enforcement personnel fanned out across the country infiltrating groups for “intelligence” gathering purposes…huh?! Mind you, city based, law enforcement is engaged in the extra-jurisdictional HUMINT (Human Intelligence) business by fanning out nationally…?!

    There’s a current case where some folks were thrown out of a gathering that was hosting Bush as the featured speaker. They didn’t act up at the gathering but some “volpo” spotted some “End the War” type stickers on their cars, so they decided to pre-emptively expel them from King George’s presence…?! I could go on and on how these elected mattoids trample our rights every day and push it to the envelope.

    Now think for a just a minute what might keep them from declaring martial law at the drop of a hat and overtly enslaving Americans. They’l allow America’s tabloid-brained citizens to shop until they drop, but they darest not question the State. We see how Russia treated protestors recently. All they have have is bottles and rocks to resist an incredibly well-armed bunch of statist criminals that control Russia. Yes, the citizens are very “safe” indeed without having arms to protect themselves from massive government intrusion if the need should come. I guess they’l all carry flowers and lit candles while they march around in front of Putin and his cronies who fear no serious resistance from “law abiding” civilians… :)) Russia has for all practical purposes reverted back to it’s old Sovietski self. It’s now a hybrid of Communism and “pirate capitalism”; i.e., the absolute worst traits of both “isms”.

    I’m not preaching revolution, but as long as elected mattoids have it in their ever-grasping heads that mayhem would occur if they try to pull something off they’l tread lightly. I’ve always like the old colonists battle flag showing a coiled, ready-to-strike rattlesnake, “Don’t Tread on Me”…!

    I’m not an NRA member, nor am I a “gun nut”, but I do believe in “concealed carry” being allowed for law-abiding citizens who have been trained to use and maintain their weapon of choice. So once certified they’ve gone through an appropriate program they can apply for a “concealed carry” permit. It’s a proven fact that crime both property and personal attacks have dropped dramatically in those jurisdictions that allow such disposition of a weapon. These classes should also discuss the use of deadly force and the legal ramificatons if they should use such force. To me a gun is a tool, no different than a good shovel, axe, or a chainsaw and used intelligently for what it’s designed; i.e., to bring home game if necessary or to terminate a deadly threat, then it has a place in the land of the “free” and the home of the brave. It’s mandatory that every Swiss household be armed. Switzerland is the longest standing democracy on the planet, at 700 years. If the arabs entrust the Swiss to hold most if not all of their gold, then that’s testament alone to what it means to be a nation that’s ready to protect itself from all aggressors both foreign and domestic. Every Swiss citizen is also “required” to participate in their governmental processes. No whiners, slackers and butt-sliders there.

    For the bleeding heart, feelgood types that think disarming Americans is the answer then you best do a pre-signup for your UPC tattoo and your micro-chip implant immediately if not sooner! Any politician especially the disgusting likes ot Ted Kennedy and others that might pander to this tragedy in Virginia for voter appeal, needs to be summarily kicked out of office for once and all. They need to focus on getting our butts out of this criminal engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan asap.

    Gun control is nothing but hype. Australia had one of these similar mass shooting tragedies about 15-20 years ago and guns were outlawed. Armed crime soared because criminals don’t follow the law they “break the law”…get it! Only peaceful law-abiding citizens end up being enslaved. Are there any questions folks…?! Carl Nemo**==

  7. SEAL

    We don’t need gun control. We need to address the ills of our society that causes people to want to grab a gun and go kill.

  8. Scott

    The anti-gun crowd seeks to establish a modern version of this lordly domination, a kind of bureaucratic feudalism, in place of the republican self-government established by our Constitution. Just as the income tax eliminates the people’s control of its own resources, they want a general gun ban to eliminate the people’s capacity to defend itself. They will pretend that our safety requires it, even though our tragic experience proves just the opposite.

    The truth is, we can have both safety and liberty if we return to the common sense concepts of our Constitution, and step forward to resume our responsibility as a people for the safety and defense of the communities in which we live. The answer is not gun control, but self-government, self-defense, and self-control. We must act to live as free people, else like sheep for the slaughter, we will die, and freedom with us.

    Stop relying, be SELF RELIANT…

  9. Tango7

    wolffreetorun: You said:

    How does all these mass killings constitute a “rush to judgment”??? Isn’t it obvious we need to have stricter gun control??? How many more people have to die before congress quits bowing to the NRA lobbyists????

    Are you aware the the State of Virginia and the University implemented many of the Brady/HCI “gun control” measures?

    • The mandatory Background check;
    • The proof of residency
    • The “one gun a month” rule
    • Declaring the campus a “Gun Free Zone”

    None of these measures did anything more than possibly slow Cho down slightly. He was a criminal who had concocted a plan to do harm, and he was willing to take the steps necessary to achieve his twisted goal.

    Criminals are called criminals because they disobey the laws that the rest of us obey. They commit murders, rapes, robberies; they burglarize houses, steal cars, and kidnap children. They also carry firearms without a permit, or where the law doesn’t allow it.

    If a criminal is intent on shooting dozens of classmates, or raping a woman, or stealing your car, what makes you possibly think that passing another law is going to change his behavior?

    “Oops… I’d better not carry this pistol while breaking into the Smith residence to kill the husband and kids, rape the wife and take all their stuff… Carrying a gun is illegal”

    Congress needs to quit worrying about how much money is involved & start worrying about public support & wishes. They seem to think they can do what they want no matter what the public wants. This a government FOR & BY the people???? I THINK NOT!!!!

    How about eliminating all of the “perks” and benefits that the members of Congress enjoy, in addition to campaign donations? I say that every member of Congress should earn the “average annual income”, either for their district, state, or nationally. They want a raise? Then get the working men and women one first.

    And your complaint of an unresponsive government sounds similar to the complaints of the American Colonies circa 1774… Remember the Boston Tea Party, and “No taxation without representation”? They complained of not being heard as well.

    The next step of King George’s plan was to send in his Army to disarm the colonists, so he had a company in the Massachussets Garrison mobilized.

    The cause of the resulting battles (Lexington and Concord) were remembered by the Founders, which is why they wanted to ensure our ability to defend ourselves and our way of life from criminals and predators, whether as a person or as a people.

    Are you happy with living under the Patriot Act AND not having any guns?

    Forget abandoning only the 2nd Amendment… get ready to lose the rest of them too, once we yield up our “liberty teeth”.