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Horrific Connecticut school shooting rekindles gun control debate in U.S.

By Matthew Rusling (Xinhua)

08:13, December 18, 2012

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The latest shooting rampage in the U.S. state of Connecticut, in which 20 schoolchildren were cold-bloodedly gunned down on Friday, has rekindled the nation's debate on gun control. But it remains to be seen if this horrific incident could change the trajectory of the debate and lead to tangible results.


The United States in 2012 saw more than a dozen mass shootings leading to nearly 100 deaths, experiencing a bloody year that has destroyed families and left survivors with scars that may never heal.

In the latest mass killing and one of the worst in U.S. history, a gunman on Friday entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and went on a shooting spree, killing 20 children aged six or seven and six adults.

The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, killed his mother before driving to the school to carry out the shooting rampage. He sprayed two classrooms with bullets and ultimately turned the gun on himself. All 26 victims were reportedly shot more than once, and some as many as 11 times.

This incident came just months after a massacre at a movie theater in the western state of Colorado, during which a shooter fired continuously into a crowd of movie-goers at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, killing 12 and wounding 70.

In another high-profile mass shooting in August, a white supremacist shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin before killing himself.

Other major shootings this year included an August incident in which three people including a police officer were killed at Texas A&M University by a 35-year-old man. In April, a former student at Oikos University in Oakland, California gunned down seven people in an execution-style killing.


Amid frequent mass shootings this year, many Americans seem to have difficulty recalling each and every incident, and discussions about how to combat gun violence in the country have tended to fizzle out within a week following each massacre.

But this time it may be different, said some experts, stressing the fact that the bulk of victims in Friday's shooting were children of age 7 or younger.

"The large number of people killed plus the deaths of 20 very young children puts a human face on this subject that we really haven't had before," said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

In the past, Democrats have been apprehensive on the issue of gun control, fearing that they may lose the support of some core constituents. "Democrats have been afraid to touch the gun issue for fear it will cost them rural votes. That may change this time around," West told Xinhua.

Indeed, calls for increased gun legislation have grown louder in the immediate wake of the Connecticut killings. President Barack Obama, visibly shocked by the incident, said on Friday that "meaningful action" should be taken "to prevent more tragedies like this regardless of the politics."

Appearing on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," California Senator Dianne Feinstein said that she plans to reintroduce a bill that limits the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons as well as high-capacity magazines.

Outspoken gun control advocate New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on the same show that tackling the issue should top President Obama's agenda.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said on Friday: "In the name of the ... children and teens that die from guns every day in our nation ... we have to take terrible moments like this and use it as a catalyst to demand the sensible change in our nation that is too long overdue."

But gun owners' rights groups such as the National Rifle Association are expected to put up a fight against any measures they deem unfair.

Gun owners have long made the argument that too much gun legislation leaves more firearms in the hands of criminals -- criminals tend to obtain firearms illegally -- and deprives law- abiding citizens of the ability to defend themselves against robberies, home invasions, rape, murder and a host of other crimes.

Some gun owners' rights advocates also argue that mass killings tend to occur in places where guns are banned, such as movie theaters and shopping malls, giving mass shooters free rein to kill at will without the fear of getting shot themselves.

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