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Gun Control Debate Heats Up after Shootings; DOJ Mulled Information-Sharing for Background Checks

Posted Dec 17, 2012 7:52 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday is bringing the debate over gun control back into the headlines.

On Sunday Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would introduce legislation banning the sale of assault weapons and ammunition clips with more than 10 bullets, report the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News. “The purpose of this bill is to get weapons of war off our streets,” Feinstein told Meet the Press.

Meanwhile, President Obama said on Sunday he would use “whatever power this office holds” to prevent additional tragedies, the New York Times reports. In a separate story, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Justice Department considered ways to improve background checks for would-be gun owners after the 2011 shootings at a Tucson supermarket that killed Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll and five others. Most of the proposals were abandoned as the election approached and Congress investigated the Fast and Furious gun trafficking case, the story says.

Twenty-six people, including 20 children, died in the Sandy Hook shootings. The gunman, Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and later turned the gun on himself.

The Justice Department list included a proposal to allow federal agencies share information with the FBI for its background-check database. For example, the Social Security Administration could forward information when a person is deemed mentally incompetent. The Department also considered asking Congress to require private sellers to conduct background checks. Currently, only licensed firearms dealers have to conduct such checks.

Some gun rights supporters, on the other hand, say more guns are the answer. Speaking on Fox News, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said slain school principal Dawn Hochsprung could have used an assault rifle. “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked,” Gohmert said. “So when she heard gunfire she pulled it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she had taken him out.”

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog points out that Connecticut’s gun control laws are among the toughest in the country.

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