Gun control: a change of heart after Newtown massacre?

Dec 19, 2012

Even the pro-guns National Rifle Association agrees to enter discussions after Sandy Hook tragedy

 WITH the argument for tighter gun controls gaining momentum in the US after the Connecticut school massacre, President Obama has put Vice-President Joe Biden in charge of the drive to reintroduce a ban on assault rifles.

The issue has become a priority for the White House after Friday's massacre in which Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults, and Obama might finally achieve some progress from the previously intransigent National Rifle Association, reports The Guardian.

In a highly unusual move, the NRA said it will unveil plans of its own in a "major" press conference on Friday.

Usually the gun lobbyists remain quiet after an incident of this kind, as they did after the Aurora killings in July. But NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the organisation "is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again".
At the weekend there was criticism of the President when he failed to be specific about which gun controls he would support. Even in his speech at the Newtown vigil on Sunday, when he signalled that the issue would be top priority, he did not mention the word "gun" specifically.

But on Tuesday Obama said he will support Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein's bill to curb the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, as the Daily Telegraph reports. Feinstein was responsible for the original 1994 bill, supported by Joe Biden, which was allowed to lapse in 2004 by the Bush administration.

Obama also has new support from previously pro-gun Senators. These include the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who now says he is open to reform because of Newtown. Manchin said he has been in touch with friends in the NRA and spoke with Obama on Tuesday.

Already there appears to be a change of heart in the gun provision and manufacturing sectors. Cerberus Capital Management, a huge investor in the gun industry, said it would sell its gun-making Bushmaster company (Lanza used a Bushmaster assault rifle in his shooting spree), and Dick's Sporting Goods promised to stop selling "modern sporting rifles" at least temporarily, according to the Washington Post.

However, White House officials have cautioned against expecting immediate action, saying Feinstein's bill could take weeks to develop. As the New York Times reports, even then there is no guarantee it will be passed.

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