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Will school shooting lead to new gun control laws?

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 15 2012 05:01:45 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 15 2012 05:19:38 PM CST

Will there be new gun control laws?

As the nation struggles with yet another mass shooting, the inevitable question comes up: Should we pass stricter gun laws?  President Obama hinted at a new push, but even gun control supporters believe new restrictions are unlikely.

Part of the reason is how polarizing the issue is.  Even Christmas shoppers in Lehigh Co. had strongly mixed opinions when asked if we need stricter gun control.

"Not necessarily," said Jodie Greiser of Hellertown.  "I don't know that, that particular situation dealt with the gun control."

Mary Ann Fischer of Lower Saucon Twp. supports tougher laws.

"I think there are way too many guns," she said.

Others expressed doubts that more laws will curb the violence.

"What are you going to do?", asked Mike Wetzel of Macungie.  "They're going to get them, they're going to get them."

We've had this discussion before: after Columbine, Virginia Tech, and more recently, the Colorado movie theater massacre.

"You'd think a horrific thing like this that happened yesterday would have a bearing on legislation," said Easton Mayor Sal Panto, a supporter of gun law reform.  "I'm not holding out for it."

Congress has not passed a major gun law since 1994 -- a ban on assault weapons like the one used in Connecticut.  It expired 10 years later under pressure from the NRA.

"I do think they should be banned," said shopper Sherry Martin.

Polls show most Americans support bans on assault weapons, as well as high ammo magazine clips that can hold more than nine bullets.

"I don't think there's a necessity for that," said Cherie Wetzel.  "Why would you need such a weapon?

But feelings are mixed about other restrictions, including limits on how many guns a person can own and more restrictions on gun shows.  Some see both as a slippery slope that threatens the Second Amendment.

"People are entitled to exercise their right to own guns, and it should remain that way," said Herb Stelzer of Lower Saucon Twp.

Even if there is a push for new gun laws after this latest massacre, no one we spoke to -- even after this -- thinks it will actually happen.

"When it comes time to do it, the people that are able to accomplish it, or put it into motion, they don't do it," said Fischer.

Panto wants to see tougher federal rules on so-called "straw purchases."

"The young lady who goes in and buys a gun for her boyfriend because he's a felon and she has a clean record, knowing that he's going to use it to commit crimes," he said.

Even one gun shop owner, watching coverage of the Connecticut tragedy Saturday, said some gun laws should be tightened, particularly concerning customers with potential mental illness.

"If some doctor puts you in a mental institution, that's going to come up on the [background check]," said John Coscia, owner of John's Gun and Tackle Room in Wilson. "But if it's voluntary -- he's going to go to a psychiatrist -- then you can answer 'no' on the form."

Former classmates of Adam Lanza, the Connecticut shooter, believe he suffered from Asperger's Syndrome or another developmental disorder, according to the New York Times.  However, authorities said the guns he used belonged to Lanza's mother, whom he killed moments before the shooting spree.  Connecticut State Police said they are investigating why Lanza's mother owned an assault rifle.