Democratic lawmakers refocus on gun control in wake of NFL tragedy

Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) on Monday slammed Congress for “doing nothing to protect our families and our society” from gun violence in the wake of a high-profile murder-suicide involving a National Football League player.

“With the senseless tragedy in Kansas City this weekend, once again, gun violence finds its way onto our nation’s front pages; and once again we hear the same stale arguments from both sides of the political spectrum,” DeGette told The Hill in an email. “It’s clear these old arguments are doing nothing to protect our families and our society, so I urge our nation to come together and change the conversation.”

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On Saturday, police say Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend at her home before committing suicide in front of two of his coaches in the parking lot at the team’s practice facility.

It was the latest in a year marked by high-profile shooting deaths. In July, a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at "The Dark Knight Rises" premier at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. A few weeks later, another gunman killed six people and himself at a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, Wis.

DeGette was one of five Democratic lawmakers to come out in support of new legislation to address gun violence after the Aurora shootings — she was joined by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.).

Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter, told The Hill the congressman would  “continue to work for changes” on firearm policy.

“Unfortunately, it’s tragedies like [the Kansas City shooting] that brings people’s attention back to the issue,” she said.

Perlmutter’s primary concerns center on renewing an assault weapons ban and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. There is some speculation that Belcher may have been suffering from head injuries incurred while playing football, as well as abusing painkillers and alcohol.

In August, DeGette introduced legislation that would limit a person’s ability to anonymously purchase ammunition over the Internet and would require ammunition dealer to report bulk sales.

“Both parties have abdicated responsibility for doing anything about gun violence in this country because of political concerns and an unwillingness to make tough choices and risky decisions,” she said. “While those motivations sadly permeate much of the politics in Washington, in this case, it is actually a matter of life and death.”

Few lawmakers have weighed in on the Kansas City shooting, but on Sunday night, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas ignited a national controversy when he read portions of an article by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock on the air. Costas said he agreed with the Whitlock piece, in which the writer said the Second Amendment was a threat to liberty.

“We’ve come to accept our insanity,” Whitlock wrote. “We’d prefer to avoid seriously reflecting upon the absurdity of the prevailing notion that the second amendment somehow enhances our liberty rather than threatens it. ... Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.”

Wayne LaPierre, Chief Executive Officer for the National Rifle Association, accused Costas of using the Belcher shooting to “piggyback his social agenda on the back of a tragedy,” and said he expects an “unprecedented” fight over gun rights in the next Congress.

“I think it is going to come hard, I think it is going to come fast, and I think it is going to come soon,” he said in an interview with CNN.