WASHINGTON – Both Republicans and Democrats tend to make a lot of noise in Washington on the issues of the day. But following the massacre of 26 students and teachers at an elementary school last week, Republicans have gone almost completely quiet on the subject of gun control.
None of the three Republican lawmakers from Minnesota who will be returning to Congress next year have responded to requests for a comment from MPR News on Friday’s proposal from the National Rifle Association to hire armed security guards and police to be stationed in all of the nation’s schools. (2nd District Congressman John Kline did speak with MPR News on Tuesday about some gun control-related issues but no other Minnesota Republican has spoken since.)
Democrats were less shy.
“No legal organization in America is more responsible than the NRA for lobbying to ensure the proliferation of killer guns while denying law enforcement tools to stop killers,” said St. Paul U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum in a written statemewnt. “[NRA vice president] Wayne LaPierre’s call for guards and guns in every school building and playground is madness and a perverse vision for life in America.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a gun owner who received the NRA’s endorsement in this past election, was also critical of the group’s proposal, calling it “deeply disappointing.”
“I refuse to believe that our schools need to become armed encampments where our children don’t feel safe,” said Walz in a call with reporters.
Earlier this week, Walz announced his willingness to consider new limits on assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips, steps he had previously resisted.
Neither of Minnesota’s two Democratic U.S. Senators wanted to comment directly on the NRA’s proposal. Both had attended the funeral of long-serving U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on Friday morning and said they had not seen the NRA press conference nor had any time to hear about the group’s plan for armed guards in schools.
“I’m not sure that’s the best solution,” said U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
“As to whether or not that’s practical enough, we’ll have to look at the numbers,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Both Klobuchar and Franken support what’s rapidly becoming the Democrats’ preferred response to the shootings: greater limits on assault-style weapons and large ammunition clips, along with tighter background checks for gun buyers and an increased emphasis on mental health screenings.
The pair will have a front row seat to whatever happens with gun control next year. They both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee which is likely to hold major hearings on gun violence as early as January.