Within hours of a madman opening fire in a crowded movie theater on Aurora, Colo., gun-control advocates began to use the theater shooting spree, which left 12 dead and 71 wounded, to push their agenda.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent gun-control advocate, led the way, citing the massacre on a radio broadcast Friday morning, insisting that statements of sympathy and concern from President Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns were not enough.
“Soothing words are nice,” said Bloomberg. “But maybe it’s time the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic?’”
Bloomberg urged the nation’s governors to speak out about the shooting as well.
“I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day. It’s just got to stop,” he said. “And instead of these two people, President Obama and Gov. Romney, talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place. OK. Tell us how. And this is a problem.”
Bloomberg added: “No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, no matter where you stand on guns, we have a right to hear from both of them, concretely, not just in generalities, specifically, ‘What are they going to do about guns?’”
The country seemed to be in for yet another round in the debate of whether gun-ownership creates violence or prevents it. Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said he could not understand why there was apparently no-one in the theater with a weapon who could take gunman James Holmes out before he could create more mayhem.
"It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?" Gohmert asked.
By Saturday much of the liberal media had weighed in with calls for more control. In an editorial, The Washington Post wrote, "There is no rational basis for allowing ordinary Americans to purchase assault rifles. They’re not necessary for hunting, and they’re not needed for self-defense."
It added, "Yes, the Second Amendment protects a citizen’s right to own a gun, but it does not preclude reasonable regulation for public safety. Yes, mass killings occur in societies with stronger gun laws, but not with such regularity — and not against the backdrop of daily gun violence, both criminal and accidental, that distinguishes the United States."
Gail Collins in The New York Times likened gun-control advocates to suffragettes who had a long slog before winning their case, while columnist Dan Froomkin complained on the Huffington Post that politicians are responding "with pieties rather than policy proposals."
Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter who represents the Aurora area where the shooting occurred, said of Holmes: “I don’t know why he had such easy access to guns.”
Perlmutter said it was “premature” to consider political issues, however his Democratic colleague in the House, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York was not so bashful. “We as a nation should … not continue to ignore avenues to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future," said McCarthy, whose husband was shot to death on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence posted a petition on its web site asking for signatures from those who felt the Aurora tragedy was a reason to help prod lawmakers towards more gun control legislation.
The campaign, founded by former Reagan press secretary James Brady after he was wounded in the assassination attempt on his boss, said the “horrendous shooting” is “yet another tragic reminder that we have a national problem of easy availability of guns in this country.”
The petition asked that convicted felons and domestic abusers, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill should be banned from buying, owning or carrying a gun anywhere in the country.
Dennis Henigan, vice-president of the campaign told CBS News it is time for President Barack Obama to act on gun control. "The president has not shown sufficient leadership on the gun issue," he said.
Referring to other shootings such as those at Columbine School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Tucson, he said, "We hope that the cumulative impact of these continuing tragedies will ultimately lead our politicians to begin to respond to the need for public safety, the need to stop this violence, instead of simply doing the bidding of the gun lobby."
"This being an election year, I believe that the American people will say, as they say over and over again, 'enough is enough,'" added Henigan.
Media figures too joined in the fray. CNN talk show host Piers Morgan tweeted extensively on the issue, saying, among other things, that “America has got to do something about its gun laws. Now is the time.”
He later added, “More Americans will buy guns after this, to defend themselves and so the dangerous spiral descents. When/how does it stop.” Within seconds, he added, "Lunatics like this will always try and get guns. It should be 100,000 times harder than it is for them to do so.”
In a later tweet, the British talkshow host said, “Colorado shooter, Holmes, bought all four of his guns LEGALLY at Gander Mtn & Bas Pro Shop. Still the ‘wrong time’ to debate gun control?”
Larry King, the man Morgan replaced on CNN also tweeted support for more gun control. “We remain one of the few countries in the world where anyone in the world can get a gun. In this case a machine gun. This is absurd,” wrote King.
Arianna Huffington of the liberal Huffington Post tweeted, “People might say it’s too early to have the gun discussion Mayor Bloomberg wants. Actually it’s too late.”
Author Salman Rushdie created a firestorm of criticism on his Twitter page after he tweeted, "The 'right to bear arms' is the real Bane of America." Bane is the name of the villain in "The Dark Knight Rises."
He followed that message with, "Anyone else tired of presidential candidates saying they value American life but never a sane word about gun control?"
On the other side of the Twitter debate, singer Chris Daughtry tweeted, "Stricter gun laws will not stop SICK people from getting access to guns...Laws & rules are not in the forefront of the mind of a criminal."
The NRA was staying quiet until the all the details surrounding the shooting become clear. Spokesman Andrew Arulanandams told Newsmax: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and indeed the whole Aurora community. We will not make any further statements until all the facts are known.”
Support for gun control has fallen in recent years. Gallup says 78 percent wanted stricter gun laws in 1990, falling to 62 percent by 1995. By 2007 it was 51 percent and last year just 44 percent.
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