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Congress / Gun Control

Middle Ground Elusive in Gun Debate

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

photo of James Kitfield
January 16, 2011

In the wake of the Tucson shooting tragedy, gun control advocates have noted that Arizona is only one of three states that allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a background check.  The state recently dropped restrictions barring guns from bars. Despite his rejection by the U.S. military because of drug use, and ejection from a community college for causing repeated disturbances, alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner was able to legally purchase a hand gun and an extended ammunition clip. One week after the shooting, patrons could buy guns at the “Crossroads of the West” gun show outside of Tucson without a background check.

Anyone expecting the circumstances surrounding the Tucson shooting to spark a revival of gun control legislation in Congress, however, will likely be disappointed. As Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., made clear on a joint appearance on Meet the Press, the middle ground between gun control advocates and opponents in Washington remains narrow and contested.

“Let’s be honest here,” said Schumer. “There haven’t been the votes in the Congress for gun control.”

 

Calling the Brady Law a vindication for “rational gun control,” Schumer promised to try and revive a law that until 2004 restricted the size of ammunition clips to 10 rounds, as opposed to the 30-round clip used in Loughner’s gun.

“But make no mistake about it, the changes are hard,” said Schumer. “Senator [Diane] Feinstein tried to bring the assault weapons ban back, and it didn’t pass.”

Nor should it have, according to Coburn. The lawmaker pointed out that the right to carry a concealed weapon had helped individuals thwart a number of crimes, including a case in Colorado Springs where someone with a concealed weapon stopped a man from shooting multiple people in a church. 

“The problem with gun laws is they limit the ability to defend yourself, and the people who are going to commit a crime or do something crazy aren’t going to pay attention to the laws in the first place,” said Coburn, before pointing to one area where gun control advocates and opponents might find a measure of common ground.

“Let’s fix the real problem, which was a mentally deranged person who had access to gun that shouldn’t have had access to a gun,” said Coburn. “I’m willing to work with Senator Schumer or anybody else that wants to make sure people who are mentally ill cannot get and use a gun.”

Coburn’s comments are a sign that policy makers may focus primarily on mental health issues rather than gun control as they seek to prevent another similar tragedy. 

In an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Rudy Giuliani concluded that “the most relevant problem was the lack of an ability to deal with what was apparently paranoid schizophrenia that should have been treated.”

The former New York Mayor said, “I think we could take a look at gun laws and see what can be done,” but noted, “there are people that would argue that, if more people had guns, this may not have happened.”

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