Some TN members of Congress willing to consider changes

12:20 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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By Paul C. Barton | Tennessean Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Some members of the Tennessee congressional delegation express a willingness to review all factors contributing to Connecticut's horrific school shooting while others say guns are not the problem.

"I am willing to consider any proposal that will keep our children safe, regardless of politics. Nothing is more important," Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said in a statement.

Cooper and other Middle Tennessee lawmakers responded to questions about whether they would be willing to consider any new federal gun laws, including ones dealing with assault weapons, ammunition sales or closing the so-called gun show loophole that allows guns to be sold at those events without strict background checks.

The office of the only other Democrat in the Tennessee delegation, Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis, said his answer would be "yes" to looking at all of those issues. Cohen himself was not available for an interview.

Meanwhile, others were hesitant to refer specifically to gun laws but said they wanted to look at all factors that might have contributed to last week's mass-killing at a Connecticut elementary school.

One of those was Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

"Given such an unspeakable act of violence perpetrated on children, it's appropriate to talk about what we're doing to keep our communities safe, recognizing the issues involved are complex, especially when it comes to identifying and acting upon the warning signs that always seem to precede these incidents. Undoubtedly, every contributing factor will be examined," the senator said.

But Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said gun laws are not the issue.

"The problem is not with the gun but with the person pulling the trigger," Alexander said.

He added: "As we learn more about the tragedy in Newtown, I think we must look closely at the behavior of isolated young men who develop an obsession with violence. We should ask the leaders of the entertainment industry whether they would want their children -- or those who might harm their children -- to watch the increasingly violent video games and movies that they pour into our culture. This is not the only cause of violence in our society but it is one important cause. Connecticut has strong gun laws."

Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, also pointed to cultural issues.

"Addressing the symptom, rather than the root of the problem, will not make our children or society safer," Black said.

"Legal barriers preventing access to mental health, the breakdown of the family and our children's unprecedented exposure to violent media are some of the key issues that must be evaluated as we seek to understand and learn from the tragic events in Connecticut."

But she added: "We have a responsibility to learn from tragedy, so that we can all do better to help prevent future tragedies, like the one in Newtown, from happening again. That requires a thorough investigation into what led to the murder of 27 children and adults."

However, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, declined to discuss issues that might have contributed.

"I share in the outrage and grief that all Americans are feeling right now in the aftermath of this horrific attack," she said.

"There is no place for this kind of senseless violence in our country. At this time our focus should be on those who have been injured or lost their lives. It is tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and victims."

Other congressional members said they also continue to be in shock.

"Like any parent, I am heartbroken about what has happened, and like other Tennesseans, I have the victims and families in my thoughts and prayers," Corker said.

Black said: "As a grandmother of elementary school children, my heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary."

And Alexander said: "I am stunned by this tragedy and my prayers are for the families who have suffered this loss."

Contact Paul C. Barton at

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