The 20-year-old gunman who opened fire in a Connecticut elementary school Friday morning carried the kind of semiautomatic weapons that have become the bloody hallmark of the American gun massacre — and perpetual exhibits in the cyclical and never resolved debate about gun control that follows every similar killing spree.
The killing of 20 children in their school prompted fresh and sometimes anguished calls to toughen the country's gun laws. But the history of previous shootings suggests that the hard politics of the issue always trumps the grief of the moment.
"As we mourn, we must sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right," said Capt. Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz. in 2011 that killed six and wounded 13. "This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws — and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait."
But others immediately cautioned against a hasty legislative response. "I think we have to be careful about new, suggesting new gun laws," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the incoming chairman of the House Republican Conference. "We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we're enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again."
A spokesman for the National Rifle Association said that "until the facts are thoroughly known, NRA will not have any comment."