Gun-control advocates believe US massacre will force Obama to act

Last Updated: Sun, Dec 16, 2012 10:21 hrs

Washington: The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where semi-automatic weapons were used by a gunman who gunned down 20 small children and six adults, will do what so many other recent mass killings have failed to do: force President Barack Obama and Congress to take action, gun control advocates believe.

Obama, who has frustrated gun-control advocates with his timid approach to the issue, came under increased pressure this weekend from members of his own party to call for stricter limits on gun buyers.

"Pressure is mounting," Republican Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said in an interview.

"We have an epidemic problem. This is ridiculous. We've got to act as a nation .?.?. . I'm just going to encourage the president to get out there and insist that there needs to be some legislation passed," he said.

According to the Washington Post, the rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, could be a tipping point in a national debate over gun rights that have faded in recent years.

Advocates pointed to three reasons why this shooting may change the climate in Washington in a way that the one at a Colorado movie theater and the attempted assassination of Republican Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) did not, the report said.

The almost unimaginable killing of so many 6- and 7-year-olds has sparked an outpouring of public emotion, the report said.

Obama is on stronger footing to champion gun-control measures now that he has been reelected and will never again face voters, and the National Rifle Association has been weakened after spending millions of dollars backing candidates who lost, the report added.

The scale and frequency of mass shootings has grown so extreme that gun-control advocates believe they now have a strong case to make to enact strict restrictions on automatic weapons.

Obama, in his statement responding to the Connecticut shooting, sounded angry and resolved as he recounted a string of recent incidents of gun violence.

"We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said, adding: The president made almost the exact same pledge Saturday during his weekly radio address.

But Obama has not provided any specific proposals, and White House officials would not say what the president meant by "meaningful action."

The gun issue would compete for Obama's attention with his top priorities, such as the ongoing fiscal fight with Congress and his plans to push comprehensive immigration reform early next year, the report said.

The president's inaction has frustrated gun-control advocates, who said that they were newly emboldened following Friday's shooting.

"If having dozens of people gunned down in an elementary school doesn't motivate Washington to do even the easy things they can do, it's not clear what will," Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group chaired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) that represents 750 mayors across the country, said.

Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control advocacy group, said she senses a change in the political atmosphere.

"The general public is reaching the point of being fed up, and I think this will push it over the edge," she said.

According to the report, among the measures that Larson and other Democratic lawmakers have suggested are requiring background checks for all gun sales, closing the terrorist watch-list loopholes, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines and reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. 

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