Senators speak in favour of gun reform

THE debate that many gun control advocates have been hoping for in America erupted on the Sunday morning political TV programs.

The Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein told Meet the Press she would introduce a comprehensive gun reform bill on the first day of the new Congress.

''I'm going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House: a bill to ban assault weapons,'' she said. ''It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation, and the possession, not retroactively, but prospectively'' of assault weapons, she said.

Crucially, if passed the bill would also ban the sale, transfer, importation and possession of clips of more than 10 bullets.

''The purpose of this bill,'' she said, ''is to get … weapons of war off the streets of our cities.'' It is not clear that such a bill would pass in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim majority, let alone in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Senator Feinstein was the author of the last law that banned the ownership of assault rifles that was in place between 1994 and 2004, when Congress allowed it to expire. That bill was blamed for 34 Democratic incumbents losing their seats.

In his memoir Bill Clinton said the NRA's campaign against the law led to Newt Gingrich's becoming House Speaker, marking the end of four decades of Democratic dominance of that house.

One of the most outspoken opponents of the gun lobby, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, also appeared on Meet the Press, arguing that the NRA's influence was overrated and saying gun control should be Mr Obama's top priority.

The Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy also called for tighter controls on semi-automatic weapons.

''I think when we talk about the assault weapons ban that was in place in the US, to have allowed that to have gone away,'' he told CNN's State of the Union.

''These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things.

''One can only hope we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose.''

On Fox News Sunday the retiring independent senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, said he supported the restoration of the ban on assault weapons, adding that a national commission on mass violence should also be established, considering not just gun law but the depiction of violence in the media.

''Americans need to make sure that the heartbreak and anger that we feel now is not dissipated over time or lost in legislative gridlock,'' he said.

Also appearing on Fox News was the Texan Republican congressman Louie Gohmert, who had a different view. ''I wish to God she [slain school principal Dawn Hochsprung] had had an M-4 [assault rifle] in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out … and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids,'' he said.

He said it was important that citizens remained well armed so that they could resist government tyranny.

''Once you start drawing the line, where do you stop? That's why it is important to not just look at this emotionally.''

In line with its standard practice after mass shootings the NRA has declined to comment, but some of its prominent supporters have already spoken out. Former governor and Republican candidate Mike Huckabee blamed the violence on the removal of God from schools, while commentator Ann Coulter tweeted that so-called ''concealed carry'' reduced the murder rate.

This story Senators speak in favour of gun reform first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.