Sen. Warner defies NRA, calls for limits on guns
Page News and Courier The Shenandoah Valley-Herald The Valley Banner The Warren SentinelWINCHESTER — After 26 people — including 20 children — were fatally shot Friday at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama said Sunday night that the country has failed to protect its youth.
The carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School also has gun-control advocates growing louder in their demands for action and some elected officials rethinking their stances.
Sen. Mark R. Warner, one of few Senate Democrats to hold favor with the National Rifle Association, has decided enough is enough and voiced support Monday for tighter screening of gun buyers and stricter access to assault weapons.
Adam Lanza, the alleged shooter at the Connecticut school, reportedly used a .223 caliber Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle — a civilian version of the military’s M-16 — and ammunition designed to expend its energy in the victim’s tissues and stay inside the body to inflict the maximum amount of damage.
Versions of the gun were outlawed in the United States under the 1994 assault weapons ban. That law expired in 2004, and Congress, in a nod to the political clout of the gun-rights lobby, did not renew it.
“There needs to be appropriate restrictions on these tools of mass killing,” Warner said.
Warner had company Monday in his call for tighter regulations on guns, including from unlikely quarters such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., an NRA member who has opposed gun-control efforts in the past.
U.S. Senator-elect Tim Kaine led efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of felons and those with mental illnesses when he was governor in the aftermath of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University that left 32 people dead.
“He would strongly support similar reforms at the federal level and will be a vigorous participant in the Senate as our nation wrestles with how best to prevent such tragedies,” a spokesperson said.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, released a statement Monday supporting a proposal to create a national commission on “mass violence.”
Spokespersons for both Wolf and Kaine, however, would not say if the lawmakers would support reinstating the assault weapon ban.
The NRA did not return a request for comment Monday. The organization has also gone silent on social media. It hasn’t tweeted since Thursday and took down its Facebook page about 10 hours after the shooting Friday morning, according to a report in TechCrunch, a technology news site.
Other gun advocates are arguing against any increased gun regulations, and instead are calling for the arming of teachers.
“If one of those teachers [in Newtown] had a gun, they could have limited the damage,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the 5,000-member strong Virginia Citizens Defense League, which is dedicated to securing easier access to guns.
He added that people who don’t like guns are taking advantage of the Newtown tragedy to push an anti-gun agenda.
Van Cleave argues that limiting access to military-style assault rifles will not fix the problem.
“There are always crazy people who will pop up,” he said.
Just going by the statistics, then, the U.S. may have the craziest population on earth.
According to a list assembled by the Associated Press, 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years have occurred in the U.S. Finland is second with two.
FBI data shows that in 2011 there were 8,583 murders in the U.S. in which a firearm was used — about one every hour. And those numbers don’t include Florida and Alabama.
The U.S. also has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.
With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has 35 to 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns — an average of 88 per 100 people, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Yemen, at number two, has 55 per 100 people.
In Virginia, gun advocates emerged victorious as the General Assembly overturned a 19-year-old one-handgun-a-month law that was originally enacted to curb Virginia’s reputation as the East Coast arsenal for criminals.
Gun buyers can now walk out of a licensed Virginia shop with as many handguns as they can carry.
State Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville, and Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Frederick County, both of whom voted to overturn the handgun limit, did not return requests for comment Monday.
Two gun-related bills are already slated for consideration once the General Assembly convenes Jan. 9.
One would prohibit guns in legislative buildings except for General Assembly members, their staff or law enforcement. The other would limit the types of gun safety courses that qualify for a concealed gun permit.
The Associated Press contributed information for this report.