Sen. Casey: Newtown shooter could have killed ‘several hundred children’

“When I watched more and learned more about how he killed his mother and the rage that he brought to that school ... I began to think of what could’ve happened, and not the reality but the potential,” Casey said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” of the shooter. “He was not going to kill 20 children, but he was going try and kill several hundred and would have if he’d had the time and the capacity.”

Last December, a lone gunman killed 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history and pushed lawmakers to revisit the issue of gun control.

Casey previously opposed most gun-control reforms, including the assault-weapons ban, but said the tragedy provoked him to reconsider his stance.

The Pennsylvania Democrat now supports the gun control measures that made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month: universal background checks, tougher penalties against straw purchasers, more funding for school safety and the assault weapons ban.

The bipartisan measure cracking down on straw purchasing and illegal trafficking of firearms will serve as the foundation of the firearms legislation when it’s brought to the Senate for a vote.  

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) decided the federal assault weapons ban would not be a part of the base bill; he promised the bill’s author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), her legislation would get a vote in the amendment process.

Reid warned that the legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled House, could have dragged down other gun control measures.

Casey bemoaned the lack of middle ground in the gun-control debate.

“Elected official get in lanes, and on this issue you’re either in one lane or the other and there’s really no middle ground even as you try to articulate a middle ground,” he said. “I think that’s where people are — they just fall into their lanes and they vote the way they vote over time.”