“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Obama said in a noon White House press conference. He gave Vice President Joe Biden the task of leading an administration-wide effort to create new recommendations and pledged to push for their implementation without delay.
Among the proposals mentioned by Obama were a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, legislation to close the gun show loophole, which allows people to purchase firearms without a background check and a limit on high-capacity ammunition gun clips.
Twenty children and six adults were killed last Friday when a man, carrying a rifle and two hand guns, stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
A local gun policy expert, Dr. Anthony Fleming, a University of West Georgia political science professor, said Wednesday that Obama probably won’t be successful if he simply seeks an assault weapons ban.
“If he pushes for such a ban, he’ll likely run into a lot of resistance in the House of Representatives,” Fleming said. “It’s very difficult for Democrats to get gun policy to be considered by the Republican-controlled House, especially those aligned with the NRA (National Rifle Association), who are very unwilling to bend on the gun issue.”
Fleming said Obama will probably be more successful if he targets restricting gun access to certain types of people, such as criminals and those with mental health issues.
“The NRA has long said that a lot of people don’t need guns, such as children, convicted felons and people who are mentally unstable,” he said. “One of the rallying cries of the NRA and Republicans is that if we start restricting guns, the only ones who will be hurt are the law-abiding citizens. They say people who commit crimes will still be able to get guns.”
Fleming is the author of a book, published in April, “Gun Policy in the U.S. and Canada: The Impact of Mass Murders and Assassinations on Gun Policy.”
He said the book compares the way the U.S. and Canada have responded differently to these mass killings.
“The biggest difference is more the culture and not the firearms themselves,” he said. “Culturally speaking, the U.S. has always been more violent than Canada.”
Fleming cited a book by David Kopel, “Samurai, Mountie and Cowboy,” which argues that Canada has always been a more ordered culture that respects government and community.
“Look at the hero in popular culture in Canada,” he said, “It’s the Mountie and the government. In the U.S., we were born from war, the Revolutionary War with the British, and our constitution was designed to prevent tyrants. And our westward expansion was into Native American lands, involving violence. Our favorite type of movies are about cowboys and people who defy authority.”
Fleming said the real fix would be to change the culture and that would be extremely difficult.
“The U.S. has more firearms than any country in the world,” he said. “We have rifles, shotguns and handguns, millions of guns that nobody knows who owns them and where they are. There will never be a complete gun ban in the U.S., at least not for the next 100 years.”
Gun control is also expected to be a hot topic in January when the Georgia General Assembly convenes.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, has already said he will introduce legislation to ban assault weapons in Georgia.
“Political cowardness is not an option when our children are slaughtered like this,” Fort told WAGA Fox Atlanta Wednesday. “But specifically, I am in the process of having drafted a bill to ban assault weapons and a bill to limit the clips and numbers of bullets.”
However, District 18 State Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, said Wednesday he will be against such legislation because it focuses on the wrong things.
“It’s not the guns, but the individuals who are perpetrating these heinous crimes that we need to go after,” he said. “What we have to look at are ‘gun free zones.’ We enable individuals who are going to commit crimes to go into these areas where no guns are allowed. These are areas where law-abiding, licensed gun owners can’t carry weapons. It provides an opportunity for individuals who want to commit crimes by guns to do so and law-abiding citizens can’t protect themselves.”
Cooke said he hopes the legislature looks at different options, perhaps ways to allow teachers and administrators to protect themselves, or maybe to add more school guards. He noted that teachers are often the first responders to such situations.
“We’ve seen in these incidents where these people become victims as well,” he said. “They have no way to protect themselves.”
"First, I think it is unfortunate that people want to use this tragic event to advance a political agenda," District 69 state Rep. Randy Nix said Wednesday, "No, I don't think we need new legislation. It was not a failure of gun control legislation that caused this tradegy. We have gone to great lengths to eliminate God from our schools, any sense of morals and decency from our society, devalued the family and promote violence nonstop to our young people through video games and movies and television. Until we get back to promoting and valuing personal and parental responsibility, new laws or legislation won't matter. Laws only matter to those who are taught to respect them."
"I am a firm believer that new 'restrictive' gun legislation is not the answer to the unfortunate tragedy that took place in Sandy Hook," said District 68 state Rep. Dustin Hightower. "Preventing a law abiding citizen from owning and carrying a gun will never be the answer to gun violence."
Mike Dugan, a candidate in the Jan. 8 District 28 state Senate race, said he was “sickened and saddened” by the Connecticut murders.
“I wish there was one simple answer on how to stop deranged individuals from killing innocents, regardless of the method they use to carry out their crimes,” Dugan said. “If the solution were simple, we’d have incorporated it by now.”
He suggested before any decisions are made, lawmakers should take time to ensure they are making the right decisions, which is difficult to do when people are still mourning.
“All ideas should be put on the table for review, but the implementation of those ideas should be made within the framework of the Constitution,” he said.
James Camp, the Libertarian candidate in the District 28 race, said Wednesday he feels that “the left” has taken the tragedy and turned it into a witch hunt.
“It bothers me that after such disasters, the first knee-jerk reaction is to punish those who had nothing to do with said tragedy,” he said. “It wasn’t peaceable, law abiding citizens who committed that terrible atrocity. It was a sick-minded individual. In doing what Mr. Lanza did, he broke, by mine and others’ estimation, 41 laws, most of which were felonies. Not to mention the State of Connecticut, which has some of the most stringent gun laws in the nation and even has an “assault weapons” type ban in its statutes. So what would more laws accomplish? Gun control laws are not about guns, they are about control.
“I will support legislation that will allow individuals with weapons carry licenses to carry their weapons on school and college campuses, if they so wish, and I will also support legislation that will allow teachers and administrators who have a license to carry, if they so choose,” said Camp, who is a co-founder of GeorgiaCarry.org. “We can pass all the laws we want or require all the mental health checks we want, but it is not going to stop someone who has the will to cause harm, they will undoubtedly find a way.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this story.