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No New Gun Control Laws Needed, Say Democrats From Conservative States

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Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court.
Aurora movie theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court.

CHICAGO -- Several Democrats from more conservative states say they don't see a rise in demand for new gun control laws following the deadly shootings at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater and the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.

The state legislators stressed that there is a greater need for individual responsibility in terms of preventing future attacks, rather than new gun laws. They also said they do not believe states should jump into writing new gun laws in response to the two incidents. The legislators were among those attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit meeting in Chicago this week.

"Everyone is saddened by the events, it's tragic," West Virginia House Majority Leader Brent Boggs (D-Braxton) told The Huffington Post. "I don't foresee any movement in our Legislature to make any changes in existing gun laws. There will be little support."

Boggs said he does not want legislators to "jump in" and start making changes to states' existing laws due to the two shootings, saying that he wants his colleagues to think through actions. West Virginia already has the Castle Doctrine, which allows people to use guns to defend their homes in case of burglary and for purposes of self-defense, on the books, he said.

West Virginian Del. Harry White (D-Mingo) said there are other reasons why new gun laws would not fly in the state. "We're a big hunting state and a lot of sportsmen," White said. "The application for gun permits in the newspapers every week is a column and a half."

North Dakota Rep. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) said he believes education about gun safety needs to be addressed, instead of new restrictions. He noted that in the Aurora shootings, accused shooter James Holmes had nothing in his background that singled him out in a background check to purchase a firearm. Mock wants lawmakers to ensure that those carrying guns know the dangers involved and that those with mental issues are not given guns.

"We have to treat each other with respect," Mock said.

He also said that while some have proposed larger concealed-carry options to allow people to return fire on a gunman, he does not know if this would have prevented injuries and deaths in Aurora. The concealed-carry law in public buildings has been a popular conservative proposal in multiple states and has included allowing college students to carry handguns on campus; proponents cite the Virginia Tech shooting as an example.

White and Mock both said that no matter how many laws were in place, there would be nothing to stop a gunman from committing a crime like the movie theater shooting.

"It wouldn't have been prevented," Mock said. "He walked in with a plan. He was prepared to be shot at."

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