Oregon shooting renews political debate over gun laws

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 12 at 1:08 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- After the December, 2012 mass murder of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth apologized for being largely silent on the issue of gun violence during his first six years in Congress.

Yarmuth returned to the House floor on Wednesday suggesting that Members of Congress who refuse to address gun control are cowards.

Yarmuth referred to Tuesday's shooting at an Oregon high school which left two students dead, one of them the assailant.  The Louisville Congressman cited statistics compiled by the gun control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, which lists 74 school shootings in the United States since the Newtown massacre.

The group's statisics include any instance in which “a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds."

"The Congressional response to the senseless loss of our children, educators, friends, and neighbors to gun violence has been silence," Yarmuth said.  "Moments of silence on this Floor, amplified only by the cowardice from those in this body who refuse to stand up for basic public safety."

Yarmuth is in the minority among Kentucky's elected leaders, most of whom express support for gunowners' rights.

"I'm a strong believer in the Second Amendment," Gov. Steve Beshear (D-Kentucky) told WHAS11.  "And I think most Kentuckians are."

Beshear said Kentuckians are open to thinking about ways to keep children safe in school.  Yet, he's focusing less on changing gun laws than rethinking how schools approach the issue.

"Let's just be practical," Beshear continued.  "Let's talk these things through and see if there are some kinds of steps we can take in our schools that will make our kids safer."

Former Louisville Metro Police homicide detective Denny Butler, now a state representative, suggests community leaders put away past gun arguments to objectively examine common threads in gun incidents.

"It's a bigger issue than, 'Do we restict guns?'" Butler said.  "I think that may be part of it, but I think that there are a lot of other components."

Asked for comment by WHAS11, Senator Mitch McConnell's office says he remains committed to initiatives designed to identify and treat those suffering from serious mental illness without infringing upon Second Amendment rights.

Endorsed by the National Rifle Association, McConnell helped block legislation in 2013 proposed after the Newtown shootings that would have expanded background checks to gun shows and Internet sales.

"After every dreadful, awful occurence of some person with deep mental disability, their reaction to that is to try to restrict your rights given to you under the Second Amendment to the Constitution," Grimes told a gun club gathering earlier this year.

Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes' campaign did not respond to WHAS11's request for comment, yet has indictated in the past that Grimes supports gun rights.

Both Senate candidates have made it a point during the 2014 campaign to pose with a firearm -- McConnell's rifle moment at a conservative gathering -- and Grimes releasing a photo inviting McConnell to join her at a gun range.


 
 

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