US school shooting: Trigger-happy nation debates gun control

Washington: The massacre of the innocents in a Connecticut elementary school has rekindled a debate over America’s gun control laws, but prospects of any “meaningful action” remain remote given the opposition of powerful US gun lobby. Many, in fact, have come with the bizarre idea that schools should be equipped with guns to be able to defend children against attackers.

President Barack Obama Sunday again talked about using whatever power he has to prevent more tragedies like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut as he did Saturday and the day before when the gunman struck to kill 20 children and six adults.

But so far there is little hint of action on the part of the White House given the gridlock in a highly polarised US Congress.

The Republicans would never support a new assault weapons ban, the New York Times noted in an editorial “because they are mired in an ideology that opposes any gun control”.

And “far too many Democrats also live in fear of the gun lobby and will not support an assault weapons ban, or a ban on high-capacity bullet clips, or any one of a half-dozen other sensible ideas”, it said.

“The more that we hear about gun control and nothing happens, the less we can believe it will ever come,” the Times said. “Certainly, it will not unless Obama and Congressional leaders show the courage to make it happen.”

But Sunday for once brought leading voices for gun control to the fore. New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg demanded that Obama confront the prevalence of guns in the nation saying “It’s time for the president to stand up and lead.”

“This should be his No. 1 agenda. He’s president of the United States. And if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns” in the next year, said Bloomberg, an independent who endorsed Obama for re-election, on NBC.

Connecticut’s Democrat governor Dannel P. Malloy asked on CNN why anyone would need to possess those kinds of firearms.

“You don’t hunt deer with these things,” he said. “And I think that’s the question that a lot of people are going to have to resolve their own minds: Where should this line get drawn?”

Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein told NBC the president will soon have legislation “to lead on” in the gun control debate.

The senator said she’ll introduce the bill when Congress reconvenes in January and the same legislation will also be proposed in the House of Representatives.

Democrat Representative John B. Larson also called for Congress to pass measures requiring background checks on all gun sales, as well as banning assault rifles and high-capacity clips.

But Republican Representative Louie Gohmert suggested on Fox News Sunday the deadly Connecticut school shooting could have been halted sooner if staff at the school had been equipped with guns.

Another Republican, former Education Secretary William Bennett, also agreed with the idea that schools should have a gun as he argued that the political debate should be put on hold while emotions are still high.

Meanwhile, more than 126,000 people have signed a White House petition since Friday asking for Obama “to produce legislation that limits access to guns”.

But an unfazed National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful interest groups in Washington and in statehouses across the nation, said it would not comment on the shooting “until the facts are thoroughly known”.

The group has been gearing up to oppose any efforts to tighten the nation’s gun laws since Obama’s re-election.

By: Arun Kumar

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