Pro-gun Democrat leader Reid open to gun-law debate
WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States (US) lawmakers this week debate how to "change laws and culture" in order to prevent gun violence like last week's school shooting, the Senate's pro-gun Democratic leader said on Monday.
Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments were noteworthy given that he is the most senior pro-gun politician in the country to suggest he might be open to changes in licensing laws after the horrific crime in Newtown, Connecticut.
Mr Reid did not specifically address whether the chamber would consider new legislation to ban certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as has been proposed by prominent Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
But he left little doubt over how he sees Congress' responsibilities in the aftermath of Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Part of the healing process will require Congress to examine what can be done to prevent more tragedies like the ones in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; and Portland, Oregon," Mr Reid told the Senate floor, referring to several mass shootings this year.
"In the coming days and weeks we'll engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow this violence to continue to grow," he said.
He added that lawmakers have "no greater responsibility" than keeping children safe, saying: "And every idea should be on the table as we discuss how best to do just that."
"As President Obama said last night, no one law can erase evil, no policy can prevent a determined madman from committing a senseless act of violence.
"But we need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens."
Mr Reid, who has been given a "B" rating by powerful lobby group the National Rifle Association to celebrate his pro-gun rights voting record, led the Senate in a moment of silence.
He and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both paid emotional tribute to those killed, notably the heroic adults who died trying to protect their young charges.
"These luminous acts of self-sacrificing love are the moments that will define this tragedy in the years ahead," Mr McConnell said.
"The last few days have been searing for all of us - and the days ahead will be too."
US lawmakers will be back en masse in Washington on Tuesday, under pressure to address the simmering issue of America's gun laws.
Among them will be Senator Joe Manchin, the pro-gun West Virginia Democrat who said Monday that Congress should revisit gun legislation.
"It's time to move beyond rhetoric. We need to sit down and have a common-sense discussion and move in a reasonable way," Mr Manchin, who has an "A" rating from the NRA, told MSNBC.
"Everything has to be on the table."
In addition to Ms Feinstein, veteran Democrat Frank Lautenberg said he planned to re-introduce his legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines.