LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – The Washington Post reports that the Virginia Tech mass shooting has forced reluctant Democratic leaders in Congress on Tuesday to confront an issue that divides their party and holds considerable political peril: gun control.
Advocates of stricter gun laws, such as Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., met with Democratic leaders, determined to resurrect an issue that has been dormant since the shootings at Columbine High School outside Denver in 1999. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., elicited a pledge from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to hold a hearing on the shootings.
“We need to stand up and do something,” said McCarthy, whose husband was killed by a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Railroad.
Democrats on both sides of the issue were skeptical that the 33 deaths at Virginia Tech would change a political equation that has turned in the favor of gun rights advocates. Even after Columbine, no major gun control laws passed Congress.
Since then, restrictions on guns have eased, with the 2004 expiration of President Clinton’s landmark assault weapons ban, passage in 2005 of legislation shielding gun makers from lawsuits, and a 2003 measure preventing local enforcement agencies from consulting police in other states on firearms traces.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., boasts of a favorable rating from the National Rifle Association, which lobbies against gun