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Gun control gets backers on Capitol Hill; mental health issues also highlighted

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 17 2012 4:12 p.m. MST

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she will introduce legislation next year to ban the sale of new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.

Police say the Newtown gunman, Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of ammunition and used a high-powered rifle similar to the military's M-16.

White House officials said the president feels some urgency to address gun violence in the wake of Friday's violence. But Obama is not expected to take any formal action before the end of the year given the all-consuming efforts to resolve the "fiscal cliff" and nominate new Cabinet secretaries.

Some gun control advocates urged Obama and lawmakers to act quickly, while the sorrow and shock of the Newtown shooting is still raw.

"It demands immediate national action," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "It needs to be at the top of their agenda."

The public has been split over tougher gun laws, and there is no early indication that the Newtown shootings are changing many minds. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted over the weekend showed 54 percent favor tougher laws, about the same as the 51 percent in favor earlier in the year. Seven in 10 are opposed to banning the sale of handguns to anyone except law enforcement officers, the highest percentage since 1999.

If Obama follows through on his pledge to make the stemming of gun violence a priority, he's likely to press for a broad approach. He's previously called for improving mental health services for young people and instituting more effective policing strategies, though his rhetoric has never turned into a policy push.

Obama has said he believes the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms and has spoken of a national heritage that cherishes hunting, shooting and the tradition of gun ownership. The president has signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains.

Associated Press writers Jim Abrams, Philip Elliott and AP Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and AP writer Helen O'Neill in Newtown, Conn., contributed to this report. Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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