- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gun-control advocates seized on the Holocaust Museum shooting Wednesday to call on Congress to reverse its drift toward loosening firearms restriction.

They said it highlights the need for lawmakers to reconsider efforts to ease the District’s tough gun laws and allowing firearms into national parks.

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said the shooting underscored the need for strict gun laws in the nation’s capital.

“It’s all the more reason why, though, District of Columbia gun legislation should be not used as a bargaining chip by those in Congress who would use our city for political gain while compromising safety, particularly when it involves our right to a vote,” said Mr. Gray, at-large Democrat.

House Democratic leaders this week shelved indefinitely a long-sought bill to grant the District a voting member in Congress because they couldn’t defeat a Republican amendment to scale back the city’s gun restrictions.

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“Congress should think very hard about their responsibilities for public safety before weakening gun laws in our nation’s capital, and should rethink their decision to allow more guns in our national public areas,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“It is dangerous to force more guns into places that American families expect to be gun-free and safe,” he said.

Mr. Helmke, who issued the statement within hours of the shooting, said he extended sympathies to the victims and that the bloodshed “shows that having even more guns in more places is the wrong answer to America’s gun violence problem.”

Gun-control advocates have experienced a series of setbacks since President Obama took office, including the president backing off plans to reinstate an assault weapons ban.

Mr. Obama last month signed into law a bill that lifted the prohibition on carrying loaded firearms in national parks. It was an amendment to a bill that established sweeping restrictions on the credit card industry.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said the museum shooting was part of a pattern of escalating gun violence in America.

“What we are seeing play out in tragedies across our country is the mixing of the insurrectionist idea with increasingly weaker gun laws,” the coalition said in a statement. “In shooting after shooting, we have seen individuals disgruntled with government gain easy access to firearms despite criminal records and troubling mental health histories.”

National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the immediate aftermath of a violent act was not the right time for policy discussions.

“It’s time for a family to grieve and our community to try to heal,” he said. “Our hearts and our prayers are with the victim and the victim’s family.

Capitol Hill lawmakers mostly avoided politicizing the shooting incident.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called the shooting a “despicable act of violence.”

“The Holocaust Museum exists to remember the past, to learn to confront hatred, and to promote human dignity for all people,” she said. “An act of violence will not diminish this mission; one person’s act cannot weaken the voices of millions of Americans who stand against hate.”

Gun-control groups often point to shocking gun crimes to highlight their viewpoint.

Mr. Helmke previously criticized Mr. Obama for not pushing a gun-control agenda in the wake of shooting incidents that killed six at a North Carolina nursing home in March and left 13 dead at an upstate New York immigration center in April.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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