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Shaheen, Shea-Porter, Kuster call for assault weapons ban after Newtown shootings

Senior Political Reporter

December 17. 2012 12:14PM

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Reps.-elect Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster called Monday for reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban in the wake of last Friday's murderous rampage in Connecticut.

Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan stopped short of calling for a ban, saying the "proliferation" of such weapons should be "addressed."

Shea-Porter also said "high capacity clips" should be outlawed and "gun show loopholes" should be closed.

They also called for improvements in the state and nation's mental health systems and access to those systems.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the lone Republican among the state's top elected leaders, would support a "thorough review" of laws related to gun ownership as well as mental illness, a spokesman said.

After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and President Barack Obama's call for policy action, Shaheen, a Democrat and former New Hampshire governor, called for "comprehensive action," specifically including reinstatement of a 10-year assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

"After a heartbroken weekend where the nation grieved with the families of Newtown, it's time for elected leaders to come together and determine what we can do to help end the culture of violence that is leading to these tragedies," she said.

"We need a comprehensive approach that includes improving access to mental health services, better enforcement of our current laws, and we need to get deadly assault weapons off our streets."

Shaheen had not previously called for an assault weapons ban. Her spokesman, Mark Gordon, said the Newtown tragedy "led her to a re-thinking of her position."

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said that while all Americans mourn and pray for the Newtown victims, Ayotte believes "denying the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens will not change the behavior of those intent on using firearms to commit horrific crimes."

Grappone said, however, Ayotte backs "a thorough review of our laws, including how we deal with mental illness, to determine what can be done to deter and prevent mass shootings."

Ayotte is a member of the National Rifle Association, Grappone said. She has received an "A" rating from the gun rights organization.

Shea-Porter, a Democratic former two-term House member who will return in January after being elected in November, said she plans to support legislation "that will establish responsible gun safety."

In an interview, she said she backs the federal ban on assault weapons and added, "I think we have to get rid of high-capacity clips.

"I also think we have to close loopholes for gun shows," Shea-Porter said.

"But we also need to educate people on mental illness and how to recognize the signs of it," she said.

"This is not about the NRA," said Shea-Porter. "We're talking about murder and mayhem and the steps we need to take to try to eliminate and certainly reduce it."

Noting that many members of Congress are parents, Shea-Porter said, "Surely we can stand together on this one."

Kuster said, "It's now long past time for members of both parties to come together to get serious about reducing gun violence.

"Like most Americans, I believe we can and must respect the Second Amendment while also doing more to protect our children, our families, and our communities," she said.

"I am eager to partner with law enforcement and members of Congress to pursue common sense reforms that keep guns out of the wrong hands, rid our streets of assault weapons, and keep our communities safe," she said.

Hassan said that "our most important job is to ensure the safety of our families and communities, and we must always be looking for ways to keep New Hampshire's children safe from harm.

"While we continue to learn more facts about the horrific tragedy in Connecticut, we owe it to those we've lost to come together and determine what can be done to make our communities safer and better, including improving our mental health system and addressing the proliferation of deadly assault weapons.

"I join with the people of New Hampshire and our entire country in grief, mourning and prayer," Hassan said.

Hassan did not say how she feels about a ban on semi-automatic weapons, which are commonly called "assault weapons." She also did not address other state gun laws.

Her spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said she believes "we need to come together to discuss how best to address the proliferation" of assault weapons.

In the past few days several federal lawmakers have called for an assault weapons ban, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., who said she will introduce legislation early in the next Congress.

Retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has also called for reinstating the ban, and Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a NRA member, called on Congress and the gun industry to work together on a "sensible, reasonable approach to curbing assault weapons.

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