Local Republicans cautious on gun control after Newtown

Gun-control advocates say the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, illustrates the urgency of better gun control, but little will change unless Republicans in Congress embrace the idea.

A check of Republican Congressmen in the Philadelphia area shows they’re reacting cautiously, as are national GOP leaders. 

The five lawmakers, whose voting records have earned strong ratings from Gun Owners of America, were asked whether they think any further gun control was warranted — such as an assault weapons ban — and whether the tragedy had changed their thinking in any way.

None of the five granted an interview.

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Two, New Jersey’s Jon Runyan and Delaware County’s Patrick Meehan, said in prepared statements they were open to a fair and thoughtful re-examination of gun laws. Pennsylvania Congressman Jim Gerlach’s spokesman said until the investigation is complete, it’s not clear what legislation is warranted.

U.S. Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, who represents Bucks County, and New Jersey’s Frank LoBiondo did not respond to the inquiry.

Here are the prepared statements of the three who responded:

U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan:

“The tragedy in Newtown makes clear our nation needs to have an honest discussion about mental health, gun safety and how a generation of young people are being desensitized to violence. The murders in Connecticut reveal a sickness in our society and a failure to effectively reach out to troubled young people and others struggling with mental illness. That thoughtful discussion, combined with a re-examination of our gun safety laws to ensure we are protecting both Second Amendment rights and public safety, will honor the memories of those lost in Newtown on Friday. The first funerals are being held today, and right now is a time for mourning and remembrance.”

U.S. Rep. John Runyan:

“As the father of three children, the unspeakable violence that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, last week impacted me deeply. As our nation grapples with the aftermath of this horrible incident, I am committed to working across party lines to determine what we can do to help prevent future Newtown’s, Aurora’s or Columbine’s. I believe, as the Newtown investigation continues, we will find that prevention of future tragedies like this will require a comprehensive solution. I strongly believe that the right to legally purchase firearms should not be taken away from responsible owners, but am open to renewed scrutiny of our existing laws and a fair-minded assessment of their efficacy. We also need a renewed focus on mental illness, school safety and violence in our culture. In the near term however, we need to do whatever we can to assist the families impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach:

“We simply do not have all the facts surrounding this absolutely horrific shooting in Newtown. Until we have all the facts, it really is difficult to say exactly what should or should not be done legislatively.”

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