The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 14, 2012

School shooting revives gun control debate

— A lone police cruiser outside Columbine High School was the only outward reaction Friday to an even deadlier attack at a Connecticut elementary school.

But in a state that was rocked by the 1999 Columbine school massacre and the Aurora movie theater shooting less than six months ago, Friday's shootings renewed debate over why mass shootings keep occurring and whether gun control can stop them.

"Until we get our acts together and stop making these ... weapons available, this is going to keep happening," said an angry Tom Teves, whose son Alex was killed in the theater shooting last July in the Denver suburb of Aurora.

Teves was choked up as he answered a reporter's call Friday. A work associate of his lives in Newtown, Conn., where 27 people were killed, including 18 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary. The connection chilled and angered him.

The Connecticut gunman was reported to have used a .223-caliber rifle, although it wasn't immediately clear what type. Weapons that use the .223 caliber ammunition can range from assault-style rifles similar to the AR-15 semi-automatic used by James Holmes in Aurora in the July 20 shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 70 to hunting rifles.

The gunman in the recent Oregon shopping mall shooting also used an AR-15, and the Washington, D.C.-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo used a .223-caliber Bushmaster, both largely civilian versions of the military's M-16.

Versions of the AR-15 once were outlawed under a U.S. assault weapon ban in 1994. That prohibition expired in 2004 and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of gun enthusiasts, did not renew it.

This week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper generated a storm of debate after declaring that it was time to start debating gun control measures. Hickenlooper specifically mentioned the AR-15.

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