Category Archives: Gun Control

7 dead in Santa Monica College shooting, gunman may have had help

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SWAT team: Sheriff’s deputies gather near Santa Monica College. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times /June 7, 2013)

latimes.com | Jun 7, 2013

By Rosanna Xia, Kate Mather and Andrew Blankstein

Seven people — including the gunman — are dead after a shooting rampage that ended at Santa Monica College, police said.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks described a violent shooting rampage that appears to have begun in the 2000 block of Yorkshire Avenue just before noon.

Two people were found dead on Yorkshire Avenue and a home was on fire, authorities said.

Santa Monica shooting: At least six killed, three injured, minutes after President Obama’s motorcade passed by

The gunman then moved west along Pico Boulevard, firing at cars, including a bus and a police vehicle.

One person died at Cloverfield and Pico boulevards; two died at 19th Street and Pico Boulevard. Another woman died at the hospital.

Seabrooks said the gunman may not have acted alone.  A second “person of interest” is in custody.

“We are not convinced 100% that the suspect who was killed operated in solo or a lone capacity,” Seabrooks said.

The suspect fled onto Santa Monica College, where he was pursued by police. He shot a woman on campus and ran into the library, where he continued to fire rounds from an assault rifle.

Authorities shot and killed the gunman on campus. He has not yet been identified, but police described him as being 25 to 30 years old.

They have detained a second man, who has not been identified. He is considered a person of interest.

Santa Monica College and all schools in the city were placed on lockdown.

The shooting rampage sent Santa Monica into chaos — just as President Obama was attending a fundraiser a few miles away.

Many college students were on campus studying — or taking finals.

Stephen Bell and his classmates were preparing for the final tap performance when two women ran into their Santa Monica College classroom, next to the campus library.

They just saw a woman get shot in the library, they said.

“When she said that word — shot! — we immediately shut the door, laid down on the floor and shut the lights,” Bell said.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, Columbine High School,” he said. “First thing that crossed my mind.”

Joey Letteri, the tap instructor, was running a few minutes late and was walking to class from his office upstairs. When he got to class, the door was shut and the lights were off.

“I thought it was a surprise and that the class got a cake for me or something,” he said, shaking his head at the innocent thought that had crossed his mind at the time.

Letteri led the class through a meditation and told them to stay quiet. They tried to calm the two female students down. One couldn’t stop throwing up, Letteri said, and the other was crying and shaking.

Finally, a SWAT team arrived. Letteri told them to slide their badges under the door. Each person in the classroom had to come out individually with their hands up, he said, and they were searched before they were all escorted off campus. Officers took the two witnesses from the library aside.

Nixon Wanted Total Handgun Ban, White House Records Show

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Nixon shaking hands with his friend, mass-murdering anti-gun communist dictator Mao Zedong who stated that “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Nixon: “People should not have handguns.”

Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public

inquisitr.com | Mar 9, 2013

Richard Nixon wanted a total handgun ban and refused to gave in to the powerful handgun lobby National Rifle Association, White House records show.

A collection of previously unreported Oval Office recordings and White House memos show Nixon as an otherwise conservative president who had one of the hardest stances for gun control of any American president. While in office Nixon banned the sale of Saturday night specials, a cheaply made type of handgun, and wanted to ban all handguns.

“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon said in a taped conversation with aides. “The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth.” He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?”

Even some of Nixon’s advisers were against the handgun ban.

“Let me ask you,” Nixon said to Attorney General John Mitchell in June 1971, “there is only one thing you are checking on, that’s the manufacture of those $20 guns? We should probably stop that.”

When Mitchell said that the gun lobby would stand in the way of such a ban, Nixon was ready to counter their attack.

“No hunters are going to use $20 guns,” Nixon countered.

“No, but the gun lobby’s against any incursion into the elimination of firearms,” said Mitchell.

Nixon never made his wish for a handgun ban public, but worked with Congress at various measures of gun control. On the recordings, Nixon said adding new gun control would have been difficult, but he stuck by his view that “people should not have handguns.”

“I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it,” Nixon said.

Colorado Lawmakers Advance Seven Sweeping Gun Control Measures In Senate Committee

huffingtonpost.com | Mar 13, 2013

By IVAN MORENO and KRISTEN WYATT

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2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act. Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.

DENVER — A series of sweeping gun-control measures in Colorado is on track to hit the governor’s desk by the end of the month, with Democratic committees in the Legislature advancing all the bills despite a Capitol packed with hundreds of opponents and surrounded by cars circling the Capitol blaring their horns.

Gun limits including expanded background checks and ammunition magazine limits were helped Monday by testimony from the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and victims of mass shootings in Connecticut and suburban Denver.

Colorado has become a focus point in the national debate over what new laws, if any, are needed to prevent gun violence after recent mass shootings, including an attack at an Aurora movie theater last summer – a massacre that brought to mind the Columbine High School shooting of 1999 for many in the state and across the nation.

The seven gun-control measures cleared their committees on 3-2 party-line votes and are planned for debate by the full Senate by Friday. Four of the seven have already cleared the House, making it possible some of them will land on the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper within weeks.

“I think they’ll all pass. I really do,” said Democratic Senate President John Morse. “And I think they all should pass. I think any of them failing doesn’t make Colorado as safe as we could make Colorado.”

A biplane flying above the Capitol Monday warned the governor, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” Hickenlooper backs expanded background checks and has said he’s considering a bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. He hasn’t indicated where he stands on other measures, including whether he supports a proposal that would hold sellers and owners of assault weapons liable for shootings by such firearms.

Gun rights supporters walked the Capitol halls wearing stickers that read, “I Vote Pro-Gun.” Several dozen people outside the Capitol waved American flags as light snow fell.

Inside, retired astronaut and Navy captain Mark Kelly told lawmakers that he and his wife, Giffords, support the Second Amendment, but he said the right to bear arms shouldn’t extend to criminals and the mentally ill.

Kelly compared the different background check requirements for private and retail sales with having two different lines at the airport, one with security and one without.

“Which one do you think the terrorist is going to choose?” he asked.

Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tucson, Ariz., was severely wounded in a mass shooting in January 2011 while meeting with constituents.

Gun control opponents say the proposals will not reduce violence. They say lawmakers should focus on strengthening access to mental health services for people who could be dangerous to communities.

The bill hearings were at times testy, and included some outbursts from the audience. After one bill passed, someone leaving the committee yelled “That sucks!” to lawmakers.

“I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior,” Democratic Sen. Irene Aguilar told the audience at one point.

The commotion at the Capitol underscored the attention the debate has generated nationally from gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association, to victims’ families and White House officials.

One of the nation’s largest producers of ammunition magazines, Colorado-based Magpul, has threatened to leave the state if lawmakers restrict the size of its products. Its founder said smaller magazines can be easily connected to each other and the company fears it would be legally liable if people were to do that.

Victims who have lost relatives to gun violence say it’s time for legislators to take action.

Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was among the 12 killed in the Aurora theater shooting, was among the people urging lawmakers to pass magazine restrictions.

“He was enjoying the movie one second, and then the next second he was dead,” Tom Sullivan said.

Jane Dougherty, whose sister, Mary Sherlach, was a psychologist killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has been lobbying Colorado lawmakers to pass new gun laws. She said she doesn’t understand gun owners who worry the bills are putting a burden on their rights.

She said the Connecticut shooter used “the same type of weapon that we use in war” to “slaughter these babies” and asked lawmakers for stricter gun laws.

“We cannot wait for yet another massacre to transpire,” Dougherty said.

Maryland’s about to pass one of the strictest gun control laws in the US

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Photo: 2,000 people showed up to support Maryland’s gun legislation AP

washingtontimes.com | Mar 5, 2013

by Catherine Poe

WASHINGTON, March 5, 2013 — Spurred by the Newtown massacre, Maryland is poised to pass one of the strictest gun control laws in the country.

If Maryland does pass the legislation and Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley does sign the bill, as is expected, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country Beretta USA is considering a move elsewhere, taking with it approximately 400 jobs. Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has already put out the welcome mat for any gun manufacturers looking to move.

Berettaclaims that the law that would forbid 10-bullet magazines would make the manufacture of their 9mm 13-bullet magazine illegal in Maryland. Beretta says it moved one of its factories to Virginia the last time Maryland tightened its laws.

Such talk, however, doesn’t faze the people supporting the new legislation. They see the new law as long overdue. Even before the bill passes, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence had ranked Maryland’s gun laws as the seventh strictest in the nation.

The new law, which will probably be passed this week, would also ban 45 assault-type weapons, set up licensing and fingerprinting of gun buyers, and ban sales to anyone who has been committed to a mental hospital.

Passions run high on both sides as was evident at the gun control rally last Friday in historic Annapolis. The 2,000 people at the anti-gun rally, who came to hear the governor and other pro gun-control advocates speak before heading off to lobby their delegates afterwards, chanted “Save Lives Now.”

One woman, a wife of an Eastern Shore hunter, Joyce Scharch explained her support for the bill saying, “Assault weapons are the wrong weapons in the wrong hands.”

Quaker Mosie Harrington of Hyattsville, Md. said that more people had been killed with guns in the U.S. than in all the wars since the Revolutionary War.

Art Cizek, Easton, Md., said he was at the rally for all the Newtowners. “Every life is important. We believe we now have a legacy to transform the country.”

His sentiments were echoed by a pastor who said, “If not now, when? If not here, where? If not us, who?”

Others waved signs that read “The only thing this teacher packs is lunch,” “Arms are for hugging, not death,” and “If driving requires a license, then so does owning a gun.”

A recent poll of Marylanders found that 62% are in favor of stricter gun laws in Maryland and that 85% support the tough licensing and fingerprinting of gun buyers.

Pro-gun Advocates Look to Supreme Court

Meanwhile down the block, behind police lines, about 60 people showed up to protest the gun control rally. A quiet group, they tried to engage people on the way to the rally in a discussion about their pro-gun stance.

In conversations with them, it became apparent that there are degrees of passion about owning guns from the young man who strongly insisted that guns were necessary for citizens to protect themselves from the government taking over like Hitler did in Germany to the man who had a written statement arguing against the new legislation point by point, using the Constitution to make his case.

Ray Givens of Hancock, Md. said the passage of the law will be good in one sense since it will “wake up the Second Amendment Democrats to what is going on in the state.” He also saw it as the beginning of the end of Gov. O’Malley’s plans to run for president in 2016 and will end the chances of Attorney General Doug Gansler to be the next Maryland governor.

Gary T. Raynor, Federalsburg, Md., believed the law will pass, but the battle is far from over and will end up before the Supreme Court where it will, like the other laws, both federal and state, be struck down. He explained, “The gun control people may end up being sorry they ever started this fight.” And, yes, he knows that it will take years before the Justices will hear the case, but he is patient, believing his side will ultimately prevail in the courts.

As for the question of assault weapons being so easily available, they all defended owning them to protect their families. And they questioned whether it was an assault weapon that the Newtown shooter used, except on his mother, insisting it was an automatic handgun. They are waiting for the final police report to be released, vindicating their theory.

Even if Maryland passes its new, stricter gun laws, it is still adjacent to states that have no such laws, making guns easy to acquire across state lines and still being located on the I-95 corridor or what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls the Iron Highway to the Northeast.

Baltimore 7-year-old suspended for making ‘gun’ out of a pastry

NBC News | Mar 5, 2013

By M. Alex Johnson

A 7-year-old boy Baltimore boy was suspended from school after his teacher complained that the boy chewed a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun, the boy’s father says.

In a note that was sent to parents Friday, Park Elementary School officials told parents only that “a student used food to make an inappropriate gesture,” WBFF-TV of Baltimore reported.

The boy, Josh Welch, a second-grader, told the station he was actually trying to shape a mountain, “but it didn’t look like a mountain really, and it turned out to be a gun, kinda.”

Josh’s father, B.J. Welch, called Josh’s two-day suspension “insanity.”

“With all the potential issues that could be dealt with at school —  real threats, bullies, whatever — the real issue is, it’s a pastry,” he told WBFF. “You know?”

Educators have been extra sensitive to representations of weapons in the wake of the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six educators were killed.

In January, a 5-year-old girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” at a kindergarten in the Mount Carmel Area, Pa., School District for saying she was going to shoot classmates and herself with her pink “Hello Kitty” bubble gun.

NBC Philadelphia: Kindergartner suspended for pink bubble gun threat

“This is a good-natured little girl,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl, who hasn’t been identified because of privacy laws. “And this shows how hysterical people who work at schools have become since Sandy Hook.”

Biden: Ability to defend oneself won’t be taken away completely, yet

NBC | Feb 21, 2013

By Alex Moe

bidenDANBURY, Conn. – Vice President Joe Biden made a forceful case for the Obama administration’s gun control initiatives on Thursday in a speech less than 15 miles down the road from the site of December’s Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.

“I say it’s unacceptable not to take this on. It’s just simply unacceptable. I say to my colleagues … if you’re concerned about your political survival you should be concerned about the survival of our children,” the vice president said two months after the shooting rampage. ”I believe the price to be paid politically to those who refuse to act, who refuse to step forward, because America has changed on this issue.”

Malloy Pushes Gun Control Plan in Connecticut

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Pro-Obama group pushes president’s gun control agenda

“You should all know the American people are with us. They should know. You all should know. There is a moral price to be paid for inaction,” he added.

Continuing his role as the Obama administration’s public advocate on gun control, Biden spoke for nearly 30 minutes and met with two of the Newtown shooting victim’s families beforehand.

Adam Lanza, whose shooting spree killed 26 first-graders and educators, took classes as a teenager at Western Connecticut State University — the venue of Thursday’s conference.

“We have to speak for all those voices — for the 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago because they can’t speak for themselves,” Biden told the nearly 300-person crowd. “I can’t imagine how we will be judged as a society if we do nothing.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed similar themes in his remarks.

“Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes you pick the time, sometimes the time picks you and sadly the time has picked us and I’m just convinced that as a country if we don’t move forward in a thoughtful way to do something to protect our babies, it will never happen,” he said.

In the wake of the school massacre, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Newtown Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., held this conference, with panel discussions on reform to federal gun laws and one on mental health and school safety.

“Preventing gun violence was thought to be untouchable politically two months ago. That unspeakable horror has given us unstoppable momentum and we must seize this historic moment,” Blumenthal said.

Chris and Lynn McDonnell lost their 7-year-old daughter, Grace, during the shooting on Dec. 14. The couple spoke on the morning panel about gun violence as Grace’s “voice” in this national discussion.

“We ask that our representatives look into their hearts and remember the 26 beautiful lives that were lost,” Lynn McDonnell pleaded, pausing to compose herself as she remembered her daughter.

After a series of high-profile mass shootings during President Barack Obama’s first term, he unveiled his proposals for stricter gun laws last month. His various initiatives include universal background checks on all gun sales, bans on military style assault weapons and bans on high-capacity magazines.

“Whatever laws we have on the books in our state, the need for strong federal legislation has never been clearer. The proposals outlined by the White House will make us and our children safer, no doubt about it,” Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy advocated.

While debate in Congress is ongoing, and the National Rifle Association vows to fight any new laws, both Obama and  Biden continue to push their agenda across the country.

Just Tuesday, Biden participated in a Facebook town hall with Parents magazine and assured individuals their ability to defend themselves will not be taken away completely.

“If you want to protect yourself, get a double-barreled shotgun,” he said. “Have the shells of a 12-gauge shotgun and I promise you – as I told my wife … ‘Jill, if there is ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put that double barreled shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house. I promise you whoever is coming in is not going to.’”

Biden lobbies as Colo. approves gun-control measures

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Rep. Dickey Lee Hullingworst, center, D-Boulder, shows House Minority Leader Mark Waller, left, R-Colorado Springs and Rep. Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, her whistle as the debate over gun control bills goes on at the Capitol in Denver on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. / AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

AP | Feb15, 2013

DENVER A package of Democratic gun control measures began moving through the Colorado Legislature Friday, with Vice President Joe Biden personally phoning four lawmakers from his Colorado ski vacation to speed along the emotional debate.

Biden phoned three freshmen in the state House from moderate districts, along with Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. The calls came several hours after the chamber started a long debate over gun-control measures including expanded background checks and ammunition limits — responses to mass shootings, including the killings at a Colorado movie theater.

Those two measures advanced on unrecorded voice votes Friday. Lawmakers were told to prepare to debate late into the night on other gun-control measures, new fees on background checks and a ban on concealed weapons on public college campuses.

One of the freshmen, Democratic Rep. Tony Exum, hails from conservative Colorado Springs and said he had no idea who would be on the line when a “restricted” number rang his cellphone during afternoon debate.

“He said, `This is Vice President Joe Biden.’ I said, `No way!”‘ Exum recalled with a chuckle after the call.

Exum said that Biden repeatedly called him “chief,” a reference to Exum’s former service as a fire chief. Exum said Friday night that his mind was already made up to support the gun-control measures, but Biden asked about the package’s prospects. Exum said prospects were good and that he was happy to hear from the vice president on Colorado’s gun debate.

Biden also talked to Democratic Rep. Mike McLachlan, whose southwest Colorado district includes more Republicans than Democrats.

The vice president also called Democratic Rep. Dominick Moreno, a lawmaker from suburban Denver.

“We just had a brief conversation about what we’re doing today and emphasized the importance of Colorado’s role in shaping national policy around this issue,” he said. Asked what he thought Biden meant, Moreno said, “Well, I can only speculate, but I think mostly because Colorado is such a politically moderate state.”

Biden left a message for Ferrandino but didn’t speak to him.

The vice president was in Snowmass, just outside Aspen, for a holiday weekend skiing trip with his granddaughters.

Colorado’s votes capping magazine sizes and requiring background checks for all gun purchases came after eight hours of debate. The votes were preliminary and unrecorded, but they were the first chance for many lawmakers to debate gun control after mass shootings last year in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

“These high-capacity weapons have no place outside the fields of war,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat who sponsored the ammunition bill, which limits magazines to 15 rounds for all firearms, with a more restrictive eight-round limit for shotguns. The bill makes an exception for magazines that people already have in their possession.

Republicans in the chamber spent hours arguing that the limit violates Second Amendment rights. They also cited a Colorado gun manufacturer that has threatened to leave Colorado if the measure becomes law. The bill was amended to exempt that company, but Republicans still argued against the measure.

“We are not safer by limiting the constitutional rights of law-abiding firearm owners,” said Republican Rep. Frank McNulty.

A few Democrats appeared to agree Friday, though an exact vote count won’t be known until recorded votes are taken Monday. GOP leaders were hoping gun activists would spend the weekend pressuring rural Democrats like Rep. Ed Vigil of southern Colorado, the only Democrat who argued Friday against any ammunition limit.

“We should be going down the path of making mental health available to people who really need it,” Vigil argued.

The gun debate was at times emotional and pointed. One gun lobbyist was asked to leave the Capitol after a heated exchange off the floor with a Republican lawmaker who said the lobbyist was falsely accusing her of considering voting for the gun-control measures. The gallery was at times packed with gun-rights activists.

Gabby Giffords stars in new gun-control TV ad ahead of State of the Union address

NBC News | Feb 11, 2013

By Mark Murray

Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and her husband Mark Kelly, has released a new TV ad in the campaign to curb gun violence.

Giffords ties gun control push to State of the Union

Biden: We’re counting on ‘legitimate media’ for successful gun control effort

“We have a problem — where we shop, where we pray, where our children go to school,” Giffords says in the ad. “But there are solutions we can agree on, even gun owners like us. Take it from me: Congress must act. Let’s get this done.”

The ad — at a six-figure buy — will air this week in DC, as well in the cities represented by congressional leaders: San Francisco (Nancy Pelosi); Cincinnati, OH (John Boehner); Louisville, KY (Mitch McConnell); and Las Vegas, NV (Harry Reid).

And it comes after Giffords and her husband recently sat down with the New York Times for an interview. “Ms. Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, a gun owner, an astronaut’s wife, a shooting survivor and an incipient gun-control advocate, is settling into the third act of her public life. Her career as a lawmaker is behind her, but so is her role as the fragile, slightly mysterious victim in the months after she was shot point-blank in a parking lot here just over two years ago. Now, she is the face and emotional dynamism behind a new advocacy group and a separate political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, dedicated to reducing gun violence. It is an effort, she said, that gives her ‘purpose.’”

Giffords and Kelly also will attend President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday.

New Mexico Inches Toward Stricter Gun Controls

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Martin Vosseller, of Alamogordo, N.M., joined several gun-rights groups from around the state for a rally in Santa Fe on Friday. Mark Holm for The New York Times

nytimes.com | Feb 10, 2013

By DAN FROSCH

SANTA FE, N.M. — As state lawmakers around the country wrestle with whether to tighten gun laws, the fierce debate has not always fallen neatly along party lines — especially in the West.

Take New Mexico, where Democrats have dominated both chambers of the Legislature for decades, where Barack Obama twice won handily and where lawmakers have shown a willingness to back progressive causes like medical marijuana and driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

But in this largely rural state, where old Hispanic families have hunted, ranched and farmed the mountain valleys and mesas since Spanish settlers first arrived in the 1500s, efforts to restrict firearms have been viewed warily.

This is a place where you can bring your gun almost anywhere. You can even carry your weapon openly in the Capitol, if you wish — one of only a few states that allows open or concealed carry in their statehouses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“There have never been any advocates or lobbyists working on gun laws here. The N.R.A. has always been the only game in town,” said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, a liberal political group that supports stricter gun laws. “We have not seen the Auroras or the Virginia Techs here.”

This year, though, is one of the first times in recent history that any significant effort has been made to regulate guns in New Mexico.

In January, State Representative Miguel P. Garcia, a Democrat from Albuquerque, proposed legislation requiring background checks for purchases of firearms made at gun shows and through private sales — both currently unregulated in New Mexico.

The proposal comes just weeks after the brother of a former state senator was shot to death, along with his wife and three of their children. Their 15 year-old son was arrested and charged in the case, which has shocked New Mexico.

Mr. Garcia’s initial bill stalled in a committee hearing after a Democratic lawmaker sided with Republicans against it. But in a compromise, Mr. Garcia introduced a less restrictive version, eliminating background checks on private sales but increasing cooperation between state and federal authorities to keep track of people with mental illness.

“That was a hard pill to swallow,” Mr. Garcia said in an interview. “But if we put together a nonpartisan initiative, we can win over more members of the Legislature and more Democrats will vote for this.

“The reality of the state of New Mexico is that we’ve got a lot of Democrats that represent moderate and conservative leaning districts with a high number of gun owners.”

Late Friday, Mr. Garcia’s bill passed easily in the committee with bipartisan support, a few hours after dozens of gun proponents rallied at the Capitol, carrying pistols and semiautomatic rifles.

“Don’t tell us we can’t be here, because it’s not true,” said a protester with a pistol strapped to his thigh. That New Mexico is only now inching toward more gun regulation belies the social and geographic intricacies that can make the gun debate so complex.

By comparison, neighboring Colorado, which historically leans more conservative, has weighed gun control legislation for years — spurred by the shooting at Columbine High School, and more recently the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora.

After the attack at Columbine, voters in Colorado overwhelmingly approved a measure in 2000 that closed the so-called gun-show loophole. And last week, Colorado Democrats unveiled a package of bills that includes universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

In New Mexico, State Senator George K. Muñoz, a Democrat from Gallup, said that guns had long been woven into the lives of the state’s rural Hispanic and Native American population, many of whom vote Democratic.

Mr. Muñoz, who said he was open to supporting Mr. Garcia’s legislation, sponsored a bill several years ago allowing individuals with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into restaurants that serve beer or wine, unless explicitly prohibited.

The measure passed and was signed by Gov. Bill Richardson, the state’s most powerful democrat at the time.

“I live in rural New Mexico. If the coyotes come to eat my cats, I’m going to have to shoot the coyotes,” Mr. Muñoz said. “When you say, ‘You can’t do this or you can’t do that,’ then everything goes underground.”

He added: “So how do you regulate guns? I don’t know.”

House Democrats unveil broad gun control package; mirrors Obama’s

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Reuters/Reuters – A display of 7-round handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Reuters | Feb 8, 2013

By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled a broad proposal on Thursday to curb gun violence that mirrors the one offered last month by President Barack Obama, including a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons.

But it remained unclear if the proposals will be put to a vote. The House Republican leadership has said it doesn’t intend to bring legislation to the floor until the Senate has acted, and there are doubts the Senate will pass gun control legislation.

“We know it’s going to be tough, but we also know this is important,” said Mike Thompson, chairman of the 12-member House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task that drafted the proposals.

Opponents led by influential and well-financed pro-gun groups charge that new restrictions on firearms would violate the right to bear arms.

Backers disagree. They argue that while Americans have the right to own guns, the government has the responsibility to impose restrictions for the public good.

There has been unprecedented public support for tougher gun laws in wake of the Connecticut school massacre in December that killed 20 children and six adults.

In addition to outlawing semi-automatic assault weapons and imposing limits on high-capacity ammunition clips, the House Democrat package, like one advanced by the White House, would require that all gun buyers be subject to background checks and provide for improvements in mental health services.

At this point the only gun-related proposal with much bipartisan support is the one requiring universal background checks.

The new package was announced on the second day of a three-day retreat by House Democrats that featured a visit by the president. He suggested that despite opposition by gun groups, many individual gun owners favor new restrictions.

“A majority of responsible gun owners recognize that we can’t have a situation in which 20 more of our children or 100 more of our children or 1,000 more of our children are shot and killed,” Obama told the meeting.

“There are common sense steps we can take,” Obama said, “and we should not shy away from taking those steps.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who led the effort to craft the White House proposals, told House Democrats on Wednesday that they have an obligation to step up and take action.

“I don’t want to hear about ‘Well, we can’t take it on because it’s too politically dangerous,’” Biden said. “There’s an overwhelming consensus about the need to act.”

Biden acknowledged that members of Congress who backed a 1994 ban on assault weapons – which expired in 2004 – faced a voter backlash that may have cost many of them their jobs.

“I’m here to tell you the world has changed since 1994,” Biden said.

A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday offered legislation expanding access to mental health professionals and improving the quality of mental health care in the United States.

The group, led by Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, noted that people experiencing severe but undiagnosed psychological disorders are at risk of committing violent acts at a rate 15 times higher than those receiving treatment.

The powerful National Rifle Association has led the charge against stricter gun laws but has agreed with those who have called for improvements in mental health treatment.

It strongly condemned the Democratic proposals on Thursday. “Congress should instead focus its energies on the things that will actually keep our families and communities safer – prosecuting criminals who misuse firearms; securing our schools; and fixing the broken mental health system that keeps dangerously ill people on the street,” the group said.