Constitutional Law

Gun Control Debate Gains Traction as Obama Appoints Task Force in Wake of Conn. School Slayings


It appears that a massacre of first-graders at a Connecticut elementary school last week could lead to a significant change in the nation’s firearms laws, as a number of prominent individuals who formerly opposed more stringent gun control measures are now rethinking their positions in the wake of the tragedy and the weight of public opinion may similarly be shifting.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a cabinet task force and asked for recommendations within a month about what is needed, while a number of observers have suggested renewing a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, according to Education Week and Reuters. An ABC News article provides details about the former federal law ban.

However, some are arguing that the Friday shooting shows more weapons are needed in the nation’s schools, so teachers and staff can protect students. (At least one Virginia lawmaker wants to see legislation passed that would required school officials to be armed to prevent such attacks, the Washington Post reports.)

And gun sales spiked in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Bloomberg says Wal-Mart has sold out of assault rifles at multiple locations and ammunition magazine prices are on the rise, apparently in part because those interested in buying are fearful that new gun control measures may soon restrict such purchases.

A Gallup poll found that a majority of those participating thought that more police at schools, increasing government spending on mental health and reducing gun violence on television, at the movies and in video games would be more effective in preventing such tragedies than an assault weapons ban, reports Politico. While a proven link between violent video games and real-life violence is lacking, those who commit such crimes may have displayed an unusual fascination with such video games, reports the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, it isn’t clear that stricter measures some have called for would have made a difference concerning the 20 children and six adults shot to death at the school by suspected killer Adam Lanza before he committed suicide. The apparently troubled teen reportedly was taken to the range and taught to shoot by his own mother and the semi-automatic weapons he used likewise were legally purchased by his mom. Officials said she was his first victim, shot multiple times in the head, before the school slayings, as she was apparently asleep in bed in the large suburban home the two shared in an expensive Connecticut suburb. The New York Times (reg. req.) provides more details.

Additional and related coverage:

Chicago Tribune (opinion): “Getting a handle on our ‘culture of violence’ “

Mercury (Digital First Media): “Conn. shooting investigation could change national policy”

Star Tribune: “Loaded handgun confiscated from staffer at Minneapolis elementary school”

Tampa Bay Times: “Former Gov. Charlie Crist shifts on guns, supports new restrictions”

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