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Reid: Congress Must Respond to Newtown Tragedy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has joined calls for a broader conversation about guns and public safety following the mass shooting Dec. 14 in a Connecticut grade school.

“Every idea must be on the table” with respect to preventing another tragedy like the one that killed 20 children and seven adults, the Nevada Democrat suggested.

As a Western Democrat, Reid has been among the leading advocates for gun rights on the Democratic side throughout his Senate career. His comments Monday showed some signs that he could be easing his past positions, which have included opposing the assault weapons ban supported by many senators within his caucus.

“We need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens” in the aftermath of the shooting, he said.

Reid highlighted the fact that the 20 children will never have a chance to grow up, and he said responding to and recovering from the tragedy may require Congress to look anew at priorities.

“I believe part of that healing process will require Congress to examine what can be done to prevent more tragedies like the ones in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Portland, Ore.,” he said.

Reid echoed President Barack Obama’s remarks Sunday evening in Connecticut, during which he said policymakers have not done enough.

“As President Obama said last night, no one law can erase evil. No policy can prevent a determined madman from committing a senseless act of violence, but we need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens,” Reid said. “In the coming days and weeks, we will engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow.”

Reid’s comments follow a series of television appearances today by Sen. Joe Manchin III, in which the West Virginia Democrat signaled a new openness to forms of gun control legislation. In addition, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., criticized himself for not speaking out against gun violence in the past, even knowing the possible electoral pressure from gun rights organizations such as the National Rifle Association.

“I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the past six years, and I am now as sorry for that as I am for what happened to the families who lost so much in this most recent, but sadly not isolated, tragedy,” Yarmuth said.

Speaking after Reid on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Bluegrass State lawmaker, expressed condolences to the victims and those mourning their loss in Newtown but did not mention legislative action.

“So we stand with the people of Newtown today and in the days ahead,” the Kentucky Republican said. “We can do nothing to lessen their anguish, but we can let them know that we mourn with them, that we share a tiny part of their burden in our own hearts. And that we lift the victims and their families and the entire community in prayer.”

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