WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver assailed a Republican governor’s suggestion that school personnel should be armed to combat a gunmsn like that of the Newtown, Conn. massacre, calling it “the craziest idea” she has heard.
“Gov. McDonnell’s point is one of the craziest I’ve heard,” DeGette said of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s comment to a Washington, D.C radio station Tuesday that the commonwealth should consider taking that step.
“If teachers had had these guns, they would have to lock them up and make sure kids didn’t get them,” said DeGette, who pivoted to a discussion of the shooting massacre at a movie complex in Aurora, Colo. on July 20. “And even members of the military and law enforcement who are at the movie theater in Aurora, they couldn’t have stopped that guy who had semi-automatics. Really, that’s the craziest idea I’ve heard.”
DeGette’s remarks follow that of the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s comment on Tuesday that a House Republican’s proposed legislation to arm school staff members with firearms was “insane.”
Gun-control advocates’ demonization of the conservative proposal was another sign that legislative efforts to address the Newtown tragedy are becoming polarized.
After the Dec. 14 shooting massacre in which 20 elementary-school students were killed, House Democrats have sought to seize control of the gun-control debate.
They called on Republican House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a vote by this week on a bill DeGette introduced in March 2011. The legislation would restrict high-capacity ammunition clips to 10 rounds and ban the sale, transfer, and possession of larger clips sold after the legislation takes effect.
“I think there is no doubt between us that if any one of us could have reached out to that shooter and taken away his high-capacity clip or whatever you call it, we would have, Republicans and Democrats. So that’s exactly why we need this legislation,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) said to murmurs of approval from her colleagues at a Capitol Hill press conference.
Pelosi and DeGette stood shoulder at the event with more than two dozen House Democrats, most of who represent urban, liberal districts. They said although they added 21 co-sponsors in the last 24 day, none of the 150 co-sponsors of the bill are Republican. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) announced Tuesday he would sponsor a new ban on semi-automatic weapons when Congress returns in January.
House Republican leaders have resisted calls to endorse new firearms regulations. Rep. Robert Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters Tuesday that “gun control is not going to be something that I support.” They have not put forward any new proposals to prevent shooting outbreaks, such as that in Newtown or last Tuesday in suburban Portland, Ore.
Despite the differences between big-city Democratic and rural Republican lawmakers, many House members remain in the middle of the debate. These backbenchers say the status quo is unacceptable but have stopped short of endorsing specific proposals.
In an interview Tuesday, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) said he is “reviewing all of the federal laws (about guns) and we’re seeing what can be updated to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) declined to endorse any new gun regulations in an interview Monday night. He said the federal government should provide more mental health services, such as federally-sponsored hotlines, to those in need.
Democrats from rural and some suburban districts have been wary of endorsing new firearms regulations after the electoral pounding they took after the passage of the assault-weapons ban in 1994.
At the press conference Wednesday, Pelosi noted that many Democrats, including the late Jack Brooks, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, “understood when they took that vote (their political careers) were all over.”
Senate Democrats pushed for closing the so-called “gun-show loophole” following the April 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, but Democrats have not united behind gun restrictions since. Democratic lawmakers hope that with a re-elected President Obama providing political cover, they will not meet the same fates again.