The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 17, 2012

Gun control debate begins to simmer after massacre

— Democrats say meaningful action in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut must include a ban on military-style assault weapons and a look at how the nation deals with individuals suffering from serious mental illness.

Several Democratic lawmakers and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said it was time to take a deeper look into the recent spate of mass shootings and what can be done to prevent them. Gun control was a hot topic in the early 1990s, when Congress enacted a 10-year ban on assault weapons. But since that ban expired in 2004, few Americans have wanted stricter laws and politicians say they don't want to become targets of a powerful gun-rights lobby.

Gun-rights advocates said that might all change after the latest shooting that killed 20 children aged 6 or 7. Police say the gunman, Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of ammunition and used a high-powered rifle similar to the military's M-16.

On Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin, a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, said it was time to discuss gun policy and move toward action on gun regulation. The conservative West Virginia Democrat said Monday he agrees with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has advocated banning the sale of assault weapons.

Manchin is the most prominent gun rights advocate to speak after the shooting, telling MSNBC that he is a "proud outdoorsman and hunter, but this doesn't make sense."

At a Sunday night service in Newtown, Conn., the site of Friday's massacre, President Barack Obama did not specifically address gun control. But he vowed, "In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."

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