The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 20, 2012

Massacre thrusts Tea Party into spotlight

By Felicia Sonmez

The Washington Post

LANSING, Mich. — Days after setting off a national uproar by barring unions from collecting mandatory dues, Republican legislators here moved on to another controversy: A series of bills loosening gun regulations, including one to allow concealed weapons in schools, day-care centers and other "gun-free zones."

The last measure was well on its way to becoming law until a singular event intervened: The slaughter of 20 children and six adults Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, R, who had suggested he would support the bill, changed his mind after the killings and decided to veto it, though, he still signed two other measures making it easier to purchase firearms.

The Michigan proposals — as well as another gun-related bill to be signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, R, — serve as the latest reminder that tea party conservatives remain a vigorous force in statehouses across the country, even as they lost seats and influence in Washington following the November elections.

But Snyder's decision to reject the concealed-weapon measure also underscores the limits of tea party legislation, which often fires up the conservative base while alienating mainstream voters. This is especially true when an issue such as gun control is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, as it has in the wake of the Newtown shootings.

Republican-led state legislatures have approved more than four dozen measures over the past two years loosening restrictions on firearms, according to a Washington Post tally of data compiled by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors stricter gun regulations. They include a Maine provision allowing guns in state parks and a repeal of Virginia's law limiting handgun purchases to one per month.

In Ohio, Kasich is set to sign a bill this week that would allow guns in cars in the state House of Representatives parking garage. Since the Newtown slayings, lawmakers in several states have proposed allowing teachers and school administrators to be armed.

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