September 17, 2013

Shootings revive gun debate, but not hope for tougher laws

ED O'KEEFE The Washington Post

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In a Friday, April 5, 2013 file photo, Newtown, Conn., resident Jennifer Killin wipes tears on the steps of Hartford, Conn., City Hall, during a rally to urge passage of federal legislation to curb gun violence. Activists from Newtown, where 26 people were gunned down in a mass shooting at an elementary school in December 2013, headed to Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2014 to lobby again for gun control. The trip was planned to mark roughly nine months since the Dec. 14 rampage, but took on new urgency in the wake of the massacre in the capital that killed 13 on Monday. (AP Photo/Journal Inquirer, Jared Ramsdell, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

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"We can protect the right of law-abiding citizens to use guns in a responsible, legal way for sporting and hunting, self-defense, but we've got to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was a lead sponsor of the bipartisan background-check proposal, but he said Tuesday that he didn't know whether his original plan could earn enough support. He also strongly defended the proposal, emphasizing that it "is not gun control. It's basically background checks, which we call 'gun sense.' "

Manchin said he is willing to work with colleagues on legislation that might prohibit people diagnosed with mental illness from purchasing firearms, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has worked on the issue, said that is where talk of new federal gun policy should begin.

"I would like to see the current background check law redesigned to capture mental health events in a better way," Graham told reporters.

Even if lawmakers begin working again on new gun bills, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, he doubts whether they will earn enough votes.

"We've had some very mixed signals" on the issue, Hoyer said during his weekly meeting with reporters. While nine in 10 Americans support expanded background checks, he noted that two Colorado state legislators recently lost recall elections for supporting such a plan.

"This is what politicians see as reaction — those 85 percent either didn't show up or they didn't vote what their response to polls is — because the two legislators were recalled," Hoyer said. Congress should revive the gun debate, he said, but "if the past is prologue, then the prologue is not very hopeful."

But supporters said they will keep trying. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has invited gun control activists visiting Washington this week to use his Capitol Hill office as a staging area and plans to attend a rally with them Wednesday.

"There's not really a lot of difference between red states and blue states on support of background checks," Murphy told reporters Tuesday. "People are furious with this place, and they're going to be even angrier if after [Monday] we continue to do nothing."


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