Recent shootings renew gun control debate
September 17, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Both sides of the gun debate seem to be hardening their positions in the aftermath of the string of shootings across the country.
Handgun Control, Inc., the group founded in 1974 by Jim and Sarah Brady after the assassination attempt on President Reagan, is pressing its message in a new, $100,000 advertising campaign.
"In this year of mass shootings after mass shootings, people's opinions are even more passionate, even more outraged than they were two years ago," said group spokeswoman Naomi Paiss.
Handgun Control claims its membership has increased 10 to 20 percent since the shooting at Columbine High School. The Washington D.C.-based group works to enact stronger federal, state and local gun control laws, but does not seek to ban handguns,
In a statement released by Handgun Control following this week's church shooting in Fort Worth, Texas, Sarah Brady called for change.
"While Congress dithers and plays games with a simple legislative package that will close loopholes that allow children and criminals to get guns, the killing goes on. While our hearts break at more grieving families and ravaged communities, the endless debate goes on. A society in which anyone can own any gun at any time in any place will continue to suffer violence at the hands of those who should never, ever have access to a firearm."
On the flip side of the issue, The National Rifle Association also claims its membership is soaring.
"We're right about 3 million," said Wayne LaPierre with the NRA. We're in the midst of the largest membership growth in NRA history right now. We have grown by 300,000 to 400,000 members in the last year and a half. We've grown by 100,000 in the last four weeks"
LaPierre credits the surge in membership to statements by President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno proposing stiffer gun regulations.
In August, Reno said, "I believe we must seriously explore the possibility of requiring the licensing of all handguns."
LaPierre said the attorney general's comments were heard loud and clear by gun owners.
"That's only the first step. Every gun owner got that message. The second step is a knock on the door and confiscation," said LaPierre.
Historically, when the gun control issue heats up, gun sales soar. That appears to be the case now, according to Tom Diaz, with the Violence Policy Research Center.
"The marketing is you better get your gun now. Next week, next year may be too late," said Diaz.
Advocates on both sides of gun control appear to be using the recent shootings to promote their stand on the controversial issue.
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Handgun Control, Inc.
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