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Shooting of gun-rights congressman fires up both sides of debate

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The shooting of a Republican lawmaker known for his support for gun rights sparked alarm among GOP colleagues, with some calling for lawmakers to carry weapons and others saying the attack doesn't justify tighter firearms restrictions.

WASHINGTON] The shooting of a Republican lawmaker known for his support for gun rights sparked alarm among GOP colleagues, with some calling for lawmakers to carry weapons and others saying the attack doesn't justify tighter firearms restrictions.

Representative Steve Scalise, 51, was in critical condition Wednesday after surgery to treat a gunshot wound to the hip. The Louisiana Republican describes himself on his website as a "strong supporter" of the Second Amendment that lays out rights to possess arms, with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association that opposes gun-control measures.

The shooting in a Washington suburb - which came on the same day that a man shot five co-workers, three of them fatally at a United Parcel Service Inc. facility in San Francisco - is reviving the nation's unsettled debate over gun control, one in which Mr Scalise has played a leading role.

"There are too many guns on the street,' Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told reporters near the scene. "It's not just about politicians. We worry about this for all our citizens." Republicans said the shooting didn't show new gun laws are needed - and some suggested lawmakers arming themselves was a better solution.

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"We've got plenty of gun laws. I own a gun; I don't go around shooting people with it," Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told reporters. "Bottom line: people get shot, run over by cars, stabbed. It's just a crazy world." "If we had that debate, it'd end like it always ends," Mr Graham said. "We're not going to tell law-abiding people they can't own a gun because of some nut job." Republican Representative Dave Brat of Virginia told reporters at the Capitol that Congress should consider allowing members to carry guns to protect themselves. Firearms and other dangerous weapons are prohibited on the US Capitol grounds, according to a notice on the Capitol Police website.

Representative Chris Collins, a New York Republican, said he now intends to carry a firearm at public events, according to WKBW, a television station that serves Buffalo, New York.

"I can assure you, from this day forward: I have a carry permit. I will be carrying when I'm out and about," Mr Collins said, according to a recording posted on Twitter by the station's Ali Touhey. "It's going to be in my pocket from this day forward."

Mr Scalise's position on firearms legislation puts him within the mainstream of the Republican Party, which endorsed gun rights in its platform last year. The NRA urged voters to support President Donald Trump.

Mr Scalise voted along with other House Republicans in January to reverse a federal rule aimed at preventing people with serious mental-health problems from buying guns. The measure succeeded following a Senate vote, and the repeal was signed by Mr Trump in February.

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