Elected officials call for fresh look at gun laws

A group approached a makeshift memorial at the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown on Sunday.
A group approached a makeshift memorial at the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown on Sunday.

NEW YORK — An array of elected officials expressed sadness and shock on Sunday over the killings at a Connecticut elementary school and declared there is a pressing need to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.

Two senators called for a national commission to examine mass shootings across the country, and a third vowed to push for a new federal ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons.

Mayor Michael R. Bloom­berg of New York, a leading voice for gun control, all but demanded on Sunday that President Obama confront the prevalence of guns in the nation after the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.


“It’s time for the president to stand up and lead,’’ Bloomberg, an independent who endorsed Obama for reelection, said during an appearance on NBC’S ‘‘Meet the Press.’’ ‘‘This should be his number one agenda. He’s president of the United States. And if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns’’ in the next year.

Get Ground Game in your inbox:
Daily updates and analysis on national politics from James Pindell.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Bloomberg noted that he had given his sought-after endorsement to the president because he agreed with his views on matters like gun control.

But in blunt terms, the mayor said he now expected more from Obama.

‘‘The president has to translate those views into action,’’ he said. ‘‘His job is not just to be well-meaning. His job is to perform and to protect the American public.’’

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man who the police said killed 27 people in the rampage on Friday, had two semiautomatic handguns with him — a 10mm Glock and a 9mm Sig Sauer — as well as a Bushmaster M-4 carbine. The authorities said the firearms were registered to his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also killed. There was only one survivor among the victims.


Appearing on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union,’’ Governor Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, a Democrat, asked why anyone would need to possess those kinds of firearms.

‘‘You don’t hunt deer with these things,’’ he said. ‘‘And I think that’s the question that a lot of people are going to have to resolve their own minds: Where should this line get drawn?’’

On ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said she would begin pushing her colleagues in Congress to pass a ban on assault weapons.

Democrats have repeatedly failed in their efforts to pass an assault weapons ban in Congress since a law prohibiting such weapons expired in 2004. In fact, Feinstein called for a renewal of the ban earlier this year after the deadly mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Feinstein and others said the tipping point may have been reached after the Connecticut attack. She said she plans to create a committee to rally support for a ban on the sale of new assault weapons and will propose legislation that would ban big clips, drum, and strips of more than 10 bullets.


‘‘It can be done,’’ she said of reviving the federal ban on assault weapons.

On ‘‘Fox News Sunday,’’ Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who is retiring, also spoke in favor of renewing the ban.

He added that authorities should better understand what causes episodes of mass violence in order to prevent them. “I think we need a national commission on mass violence,’’ Lieberman said.

Lieberman said the bipartisan commission should scrutinize gun laws and loopholes, as well as the nation’s mental health system and the role that violent video games and movies might play in shootings.

He said a commission is the only way to ensure that the ‘‘heartbreak and anger’’ of the Connecticut shooting doesn’t dissipate over time and that other factors beyond gun control are considered. ‘‘We've got to continue to hear the screams of these children and see their blood until we do something to try to prevent this from happening again,’’ he said.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, said he would support such a panel, adding that it was time for a ‘‘national discussion’’ that included school safety.

‘‘This conversation has been dominated in Washington by — you know and I know — gun lobbies that have an agenda,’’ Durbin said. ‘‘We need people, just ordinary Americans, to come together, and speak out, and to sit down and calmly reflect on how far we go.’’

Advocates for gun rights were noticeably absent among the television guests. David Gregory, the host of ‘‘Meet the Press,’’ noted that the show invited ‘‘31 pro-gun-rights senators’’ to join in the discussion. ‘‘We had no takers,’’ he said.

All eight Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were unavailable or unwilling to appear on CBS’s ‘‘Face the Nation,’’ host Bob Schieffer said.

Representative Louie Goh­mert, Republican of Texas, was the sole representative of gun-rights’ activists on the various Sunday talk shows. In an interview on ‘‘Fox News Sunday,’’ Gohmert defended the sale of assault weapons and said that the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who authorities say died trying to overtake the shooter, should herself have been armed.

In an interview on Sunday, Representative Peter T. King, Republican of N.Y., who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, renewed his call for tougher restrictions, including banning assault weapons, requiring background checks for purchases at gun shows and prohibiting sales to anyone on the nation’s terrorism watch list.