Two recent mass shootings have again sparked the national debate on what type of guns and ammunition should be legal for civilians, and what steps they must follow to obtain such weapons.
The 12 dead and 58 injured in the July 20 Colorado movie theater massacre, and the seven dead and three injured in Sunday’s Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, have drawn responses from both sides of the conversation.
Authorities said the alleged Colorado shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, purchased his arsenal legally. The Springfield 9mm semi-automatic handgun bought by alleged Wisconsin shooter Wade Michael Page, 40, was also a legal purchase, Reuters reports.
Proponents argue guns are defensive tools and it’s the people, not the weapons, that kill. They also point to the Second Amendment, which by its number shows the importance the U.S. founders placed on it.
But the law was written before semi- and fully automatic firearms, advocates of gun control say. And, as proven by recent mass shootings, the weapons are falling into the wrong hands, they argue.
Larry Bodine, editor in chief of Lawyers.com, called the Colorado and Wisconsin shootings “the latest in a long history of bloodbaths.”
“There have been 50 U.S. rampage killings involving firearms in the last 25 years, and 82 percent involved legally obtained firearms,” he wrote on the Huffington Post. "It's easy to buy a gun today, and 43 states have some form of open carry law, thanks to legislation and the recent Supreme Court decisions."
After the Colorado shooting, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called on President Obama and his presumed GOP opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, to propose stricter gun control laws on CBS's Face the Nation.
“This really is an enormous problem for the country, and it's up to these two presidential candidates," Bloomberg said. "They want to lead this country, and they've said things before that they're in favor of banning things like assault weapons. Where are they now and why don't they stand up?"
But, he added, steps must be taken to "ensure that we are not allowing weapons into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons."
Following the Colorado shooting, Romney told CNBC that “the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy.”
Even if some in Congress wanted legislation that would further gun control, there wouldn’t be enough support from Republicans and some Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
"The votes aren't there for gun control," she told the Huffington Post. "We certainly aren't going to be able to do it in this Congress, and I don't know that we would be able to do it in a Democratic Congress because it takes a lot of votes to go down that path."
Other mass shootings in recent years that have brought about similar debates over gun ownership include:
- Two teenagers—Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold—killed 12 schoolmates, one teacher and themselves in 1999 in Columbine, Colorado.
- Virginia Tech University student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and wounded 15 on the campus in 2007 before taking his own life. It’s the deadliest mass shooting of its kind in the country.
- An Army psychologist, Maj. Nidal Hasan, opened fire in 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13 soldiers and wounding more than 40.
- U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously hurt in 2011 by a gunshot wound to the head as Jared Lee Loughner opened fired outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. Six were killed and 13 total were hurt.