Wyoming lawmakers either staying mum or oppose current proposals in gun-control debate

Dec 21, 2012

HOST: The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut has rekindled the gun-control debate in Washington. Matt Laslo reports that Wyoming lawmakers are either staying mum, or oppose some of the proposals being unveiled.

MATT LASLO: While many gun owners worried President Obama would push gun-control measures in his first term, the only two gun bills has signed allow people to carry concealed weapons on federal lands and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. But now he's set up a task force on gun-violence. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says he also wants to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban and ban extended carrying clips. Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso says it’s premature to discuss gun-control measures.

SEN. JOHN BARASSO: This is a time to think and have our best thoughts and wishes and prayers go to the families of the victims, to the first responders, to the teachers, of all those in Connecticut. And this is a time to focus on them.

LASLO: As for the gun-control debate that’s now happening in Washington? Barrasso says he’ll join it eventually.

BARRASSO: That debate will come sometime.

LASLO: Many other lawmakers want the debate to start now. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein helped usher the Federal Assault Weapons Ban through Congress in the 1990s. The law expired in 2004 and Feinstein tried to get it reinstated after previous mass killings, but her efforts have been blocked. In the basement of the Capitol, Feinstein explains why she thinks the Newtown, Connecticut killings are different.  

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: The smallness and beauty of these children is so graphic. The loss is so dramatic.

LASLO: Many conservatives strongly oppose the Assault Weapons Ban… arguing that people commit crimes, weapons don’t. The Connecticut killer carried out the attack with his mother’s legally purchased rifle that carried 30 rounds per clip. Feinstein says a gun with that capacity should never be legal.

FEINSTEIN: So this kind of belies everything that’s out there. So my view is we really need to deal with weapons that are so easy for people of all different persuasions to get a hold of.

LASLO: Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says all these gun proposals are misguided.

REP. CYNTHIA LUMMIS: I think we’re missing the boat by not focusing on the mental health aspects of this.

LASLO: Lummis says lawmakers often react to mass killings by calling for more gun-control, but she says they forget to look at the common thread between the incidents.

LUMMIS: If you look at the serial, random, killings of innocent children and people in theatres, just these most horrendous things, the issues of mental health comes up more often than, I think, the issue of guns.

LASLO: Some Republicans are changing their tune, though. Virginia Republican Congressman Scott Rigell says the issue's time has come.

REP. SCOTT RIGELL: It’s absolutely the time to come together and have a thoughtful national discussion about this. The tragedy is unspeakable.

LASLO: Rigell says he's open to some of the ideas he’s heard, like limiting the number of bullets in a magazine.

RIGELL: Something’s got to give here. We’ve got to move in a direction that protects our children better than we are now, and I’m a lifetime hunter and a lifetime member of the NRA.

LASLO: But Lummis says the recent killings in Wyoming wouldn’t have been diverted by new gun-control laws.

LUMMIS: Two weeks ago there was a killing on the Casper College campus and it was performed with knives and a crossbow.

LASLO: The 112th congressional session is quickly drawing to a close. That means any work on gun-control will have to wait until next year. Advocates fear the delay could move the issue to the back burner once again though. 

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Matt Laslo in Washington.