Recent shootings fuel push to allow concealed guns

Trend demonstrates shift since Columbine tragedy

April 03, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Paul Bucher, the district attorney for the Wisconsin county where a man opened fire in a church service last month, killing seven others and himself, has one answer to the deadly mass shootings around the country in recent weeks: more guns.

"The problems aren't the guns; it's the guns in the wrong hands," said Bucher, a Republican who recently announced his candidacy for Wisconsin attorney general. "We need to put more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Whether having that would have changed what happened is all speculation, but it would level the playing field. If the person you're fighting has a gun and all you have is your fists, you lose."

Across the country, efforts to expand or establish laws allowing concealed handguns have been fueled by well-publicized shootings in the last month - of the family of a federal judge in Chicago; at the church service in Wisconsin; at courthouses in Atlanta and Tyler, Texas; and in the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.

In Texas and Illinois, the shootings prompted new legislation to allow judges and prosecutors to be armed. Legislators in Nebraska and Wisconsin, which were already considering allowing concealed weapons, say they think the shootings will help their cause.

Even supporters of gun control acknowledge that the atmosphere is sharply different than it was in 1999 when the nation's deadliest school shooting took place at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo.

Those shootings inspired a raft of gun-control proposals in Congress and in state legislatures and forced gun advocates to retreat from legislation they hoped to pass, including a Colorado bill to allow concealed handguns.

In contrast, after the recent shootings in Red Lake, National Rifle Association officials proposed arming teachers.

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