Kentucky Third District Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., says lawmakers need to get behind comprehensive gun control in the aftermath of a elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Last Friday, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with an assault rifle and two semi-automatic pistols, killing 20 children and six adults. The shooting has sparked a national debate about the Second Amendment, and gun control groups have been pushing for stricter laws.
However, gun right’s advocates such as Congressman Louie Gohmert, R-Tx., have suggested the school’s principal should have been armed as a way to protect the students and staff.
Yarmuth says arming more citizens is not the answer, and that groups like the National Rifle Association ought to be open to reasonable regulations.
“The National Rifle Association has spent untold millions of dollars instilling fear in our citizens and our politicians. That organization, which regularly fails to represent the responsible attitudes of its members, wants us to believe that the best protection against the irresponsible and lethal use of guns is for everyone to be armed,” he says. “And while no specific gun regulation may have prevented the deaths of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary children, 6 and 7-year-old children, the answer simply cannot be a gun in every elementary school lunchbox.”
Yarmuth says he would favor legislation banning assault weapons, requiring background checks, limiting high-powered ammunition sales and eliminating the gun show loophole in firearm purchases.
Speaking in Newtown on Sunday, President Obama made a his most forceful comments and said these tragedies must end, and stressed the importance of protecting children. This is the fourth massacre that Mr. Obama has had to address since taking office, including the shooting of former Congressman Gabrielle Giffords in 2010.
This shooting is being called a “tipping point” by observers due to the high number of young children who were slaughtered. Former Republican Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said Monday that the Newtown massacre has “changed everything” about the country’s gun politics.
But others argue that this incident while tragic reveals more attention needs to be paid to mental health and security at gun free zones rather than infringing on constitutional gun rights.
“Our legislators always want to go back after the guns. But we have gun control, we have restrictions and we have age limits. We have these things in place,” says gun right’s activist Ken Pagano, a training manager at Training, Guns and Gear in Louisville. “What we still need is going to be tighter security for where our children are.”
As other media outlets have reported, Connecticut gun laws are among the most stringent in the country.
But Yarmuth, who has received an F-rating from the NRA, says no matter the political cost that Congress needs to address futher gun regulations and expanding mental health care in the coming weeks.
“Many of my colleagues are afraid that their support of efforts to reduce gun violence will bring the wrath of the NRA down on them. I believe it is more rational to fear guns far more than it is to fear the illusory political power of the NRA,” says Yarmuth.
“We have to do a much better job of both providing access to mental health services but also to counseling people, educators and citizens at-large to be on the look out for certain kinds of clues that might mean that someone should reach out to these individuals,” he says.
Yarmuth plans to co-sponsor a bill in the House reconstituting a ban on assault firearms, which is expected to be introduced in the Senate as well.