Conn. school shooting reopens debate over gun laws

The school shooting in Newtown, Conn., reignited swift debate about guns and their legal status. In Connecticut, a permit is required to carry a handgun, but rifles and shotguns do not require one.

Following Friday’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the issue of gun laws quickly became an active part of the national dialogue again as people affected by similar tragedies around the country began speaking out. The 20-year-old killer, identified by a law enforcement official as Adam Lanza, brought three guns into the elementary school — a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle. The weapons were registered to his slain mother.

A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that a fourth weapon was found outside the school and that investigators have been going to shooting ranges and gun stores to see if Lanza had frequented them.

In Connecticut, the law requires a permit in order to carry a handgun. The state issues a 60-day temporary permit followed by a five-year permit. Applications for each cost $70. A 14-day waiting period is then required for a handgun purchase. Once a permit is issued, a handgun owner may carry the weapon openly, and handgun registration is not required. The state does not honor out-of-state permits, and permits are not required for rifles or shotguns.

Connecticut gun ownership ranks low nationally. As of 2007, according to USACarry.com, 16.7 percent of the state’s population owned a gun. That ranks Connecticut 47 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Four states – Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii – have lower rates. Low levels of gun ownership are not unusual among north eastern states; only Vermont and Maine were ranked in the top 25.

A semi-automatic weapon may be legal depending on its specifications. Selective fire weapons, where a user may choose between single shot and fully automatic fire, are prohibited.

Additionally, possession of a weapon of any kind on a Connecticut school ground is prohibited and is also a Class D felony.

National issue

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is carefully assessing legislation passed late on Thursday that would allow certain gun owners to bring concealed weapons to schools, churches and other areas that are currently gun-free, his office said.

Snyder, a Republican, has not said if he will sign the bill, part of a wider effort to relax Michigan gun laws. His stance was still unclear on Friday after the shooting in Connecticut.

On Friday, Snyder's office said he had been planning to carefully analyze the bill before the shooting. He conveyed his condolences to the victims and families.

"He also said these situations always must and should give pause as they're so tragic," said Sara Wurfel, Snyder's press secretary. "But that we can't jump to conclusions either."

In comments made two days before the Connecticut shooting, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper generated a storm of debate this week after declaring that it was time to start debating gun control measures.

After Friday's school shootings, Hickenlooper told reporters there's no use waiting until news coverage fades.

"We can't postpone the discussion on a national level every time there's a shooting. They're too often," he said.

A visibly emotional President Obama seemed willing to renew debate, calling for "meaningful action" to prevent similar shootings.

Also Friday, Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during an attack that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz., last year, said the Connecticut shooting should "sound a call for our leaders to stand up and do what is right."

"This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence," Kelly said on his Facebook page, calling for "a meaningful discussion about our gun laws and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America."

Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex also died in the Aurora theater shooting, welcomed the discussion. Sullivan and his wife spent part of the morning making sure relatives who live in the area were OK.

Sullivan said mental health, not gun control, is a more pressing concern.

"We all need someone in our lives to care," Sullivan said. "If we see a friend, a colleague, a co-worker and they're having a hard time, we need to reach out."

Former U.S. attorney Troy Eid, who was part of a government panel that examined the Columbine shooting, said more must be done to examine what motivates such criminals.

"It's something that's become part of our culture. We have to study it and see what we can do to prevent it," Eid said.

Some shoppers interviewed at Oregon's Clackamas Town Center, scene of the Tuesday mall killings, had similar reactions.

"We need to pay more attention to the people close to us, because I think there's a lot of signs prior to things," said shopper Sierra Delgado of Happy Valley, Ore.

Mental health screenings alone aren't enough, other Colorado shooting survivors said.

Tom Mauser, who became a gun-control advocate after his son Daniel was killed at Columbine, urged officials to stop "playing defense" on gun control.

"Let's not say once again, 'Oh, this is not the right time to talk about it.' It is the right time to talk about it.

"We are better than a nation that has people killing children and has people cowardly shooting people in shopping malls and schools and nursing homes. We're better than this."

Such emotional appeals didn't come only from gun control supporters. Friday's responses from both sides foretold a heart-wrenching debate.

"They're going to use the bodies of dead children to push their agenda," predicted Dudley Brown of the Denver group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

 

Do you think a change in gun laws would prevent events like the fatal shootings in Connecticut? Join the discussion on the MSN News Facebook page.

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