Media figures on left and right call for new gun-control laws

Rabbi Shaul Praver of the Adath Israel congregation in Newtown, Conn., discusses comforting the mom of Sandy Hook shooting victim Noah Posner on Saturday. (Rick Maese/The Washington Post)
December 15, 2012

Prominent media figures from the left and right seem to have come to a consensus in the wake of Friday’s school shootings in Connecticut: It’s time for new gun-control laws.

Despite similar clamor — but little action — after other mass shootings, the revulsion over the fatal shootings of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School could lead to a different outcome this time, they suggested.

Among the most vigorous appeals was one by CNN host Piers Morgan, who devoted his program Friday night to the shootings. Morgan, who has spoken in favor of stricter gun laws before, at one point interrupted a guest, gun-advocate and author John Lott, raised his voice and asked, “Do you want more guns, not less? Three hundred million guns in America isn’t enough for you? How many more kids have to die before you guys say we want less guns, not more?”

Morgan later added: “I respect the right of every family to defend themselves. I don’t respect the right of families to load their homes with these [weapons] so that a disturbed kid can take them and blow up a school.”

Law enforcement authorities say Adam Lanza, 20, was carrying at least three weapons when he entered the school, two handguns and a Bushmaster rifle. The firearms were registered to his mother, who authorities say was killed at her home Friday by her son before his rampage at the school.

Read the stories of the Newtown shooting victims

Morgan’s outrage was shared to a large degree across the media.

“The more that we hear about gun control and nothing happens, the less we can believe it will ever come,” editorialized the New York Times. “Certainly, it will not unless Obama and Congressional leaders show the courage to make it happen.”

Adrian Walker, a Boston Globe columnist, wrote: “Don’t tell me that it’s time to start a discussion on gun control. It is not time to start a discussion; it’s time to end it. It is time in the name of everything sensible to get serious about getting guns off the streets of this country.”

Morgan’s CNN colleague, Soledad O’Brien, on Saturday questioned her guest, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), about the ease of access to guns. She then lamented: “I guarantee the next school shooting we’ll be talking about gun control again. I would put money on it that between now and that next shooting, no one’s going to do anything. . . . What has to change so people can’t get access to semiautomatic weapons and go into a school and shoot up a bunch of kids?”

Gun-control advocates found an unusual ally in conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who took to Twitter to support the general outcry: “Terrible news today,” Murdoch tweeted Friday night. “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz [Australia] after similar tragedy.” Murdoch’s native country enacted sweeping restrictions on firearms after a gunman killed 35 people in the southern state of Tasmania in 1996.

Murdoch tweeted a similar thought in July after 12 people were fatally shot in a Colorado movie theater: “We have to do something about gun controls.”

That was further than some elected officials have been willing to go, such as Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who offered condolences to the victims in written statements but made no mention of legislative action.

Obama referred to taking ”meaningful action” about guns in his remarks about the shootings Friday but didn’t spell out what he meant. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Friday was not the day to talk about new gun laws.

The discussion stands against the official silence from the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun-owners group. The organization has had no comment since Friday’s shootings; the home page of its Web site includes a nearly three-week-old post from its president, Wayne LaPierre, touting an academic study showing that violent crime has declined in Virginia as gun sales have risen.

Not all gun-ownership advocates have been lying low. “Like you, I’m outraged that not even 12 hours after the shooting, the gun control vultures are circling the victims,” wrote Dudley Brown, executive vice president of the Fredericksburg, Va.-based National Association for Gun Rights on the AmmoLand Shooting Sports News Web site.

“The enemies of our Second Amendment rights want you and me to back off and give in to their demands,” he said. “But no defender of our gun rights should apologize for the horrific actions of a deranged lunatic. . . . As Second Amendment activists we MUST be vigilant in these times — not just in the defense of our loved ones, but in defense of our right to keep and bear arms.”

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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