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December 17, 2012

Shootings Prompt Calls for Stronger US Controls on Guns

by Lisa Ferdinando

The shooting rampage last week at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults has reignited the gun control debate in the United States.

In New York City Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a plea for President Barack Obama and Congress to agree on stronger national gun control regulations.

"It is time to pass an enforceable and effective assault weapons ban, one that isn't riddled with loopholes and easy evasion," he said at City Hall, surrounded by survivors of gun violence and relatives of people killed in shootings.

​​"Congress should also ban the high-capacity magazines that have been used again and again in these mass shootings," said Bloomberg.  "These weapons and ammunition can be used to kill large numbers of people quickly, and regulating them certainly falls within the bounds of the 2nd Amendment."  

Guns can be easily obtained in the United States, and ownership is a right guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  There are prohibitions on gun possession, including by certain convicted criminals and those judged mentally incompetent.

A previous ban on assault weapons expired in 2004.  Democrats on Monday spoke out in the Senate in favor of renewing the ban.  Senator Dianne Feinstein has said she will reintroduce the legislation.

​​Republicans, who tend to be stronger gun rights advocates, have argued that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. They also have said gun control regulations will impede law-abiding Americans from defending themselves, and will be ignored by criminals and those with violent intent.

At a vigil in the town where the tragedy occurred, President Obama Sunday said he will use whatever power his office holds to engage fellow citizens in an effort to prevent more tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.  

"Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting, the fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims," he told mourners.  

"And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose much of the time their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said President Obama.

Authorities say the guns used in the attack, including a high-powered rifle, belonged to the mother of the shooter and were legally owned.  The gunman is alleged to have killed his mother in their home before going to the elementary school, killing the adults, and children who were six and seven years old.  Authorities have revealed no motive.  The gunman killed himself at the scene.   

President Obama said Sunday no law or set of laws can "eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society."  He said he will be engaging a range of citizens - law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators - about how to prevent such violence.