WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut demanded on Tuesday that the National Rifle Association and its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, "repudiate and reject" comments made by an NRA lobbyist who said that the "Connecticut effect" was interfering with the gun rights group's lobbying agenda.
The lobbyist, Bob Welch, made the comments while speaking at an NRA state meeting in Wisconsin over the weekend.
"We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the 'Connecticut effect' has to go through the process," Welch said, referring to the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., which has galvanized public support for stricter gun control laws.
Blumenthal called Welch's description "callous and offensive" during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, and he specifically addressed a number of his constituents in the audience who had lost family members in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"I want to express my regret at a statement that was made within the last 24 to 48 hours by a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, who said that his group was hoping the so-called 'Connecticut effect' would pass so that his group could be more effective in its lobbying," Blumenthal said. "Your presence today, the families being here today and tonight at the State of the Union, I think is a statement and a picture worth 1,000 words that the quote, 'Connecticut effect' unquote, will last, and that it will be a call to action."
Blumenthal made it clear that while the lobbyist in question only represented a state chapter of the NRA, he considered the whole group responsible. "The NRA lobbyist's comment is callous and offensive, and I call on the NRA, [and CEO] Wayne LaPierre, to repudiate and reject it. I think it is an insult to all of us in America, but most especially to the 26 families in Newtown who directly suffered this loss."
A spokesman for the NRA declined to immediately respond to Blumenthal's strongly worded request, but the senator's statement helped set the stage for what is likely to be a tense 24 hours for the NRA and for gun control advocates. President Barack Obama is expected to address gun control Tuesday night during his State of the Union address, and numerous Democratic lawmakers have invited victims of gun violence to be their guests at the event.
First lady Michelle Obama will have four guests at the event whose lives have been affected by gun violence: Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr., who lost their daughter Hadiya Pendleton to gun violence last month; Police Lieutenant Brian Murphy, who was the first officer to arrive at the scene of a shooting in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. in August 2012; and Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who survived the December attack.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
"I wish to God she had had an m-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids," Gohmert said of slain principal Dawn Hochsprung on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html"><em>Fox News Sunday</em></a>. He argued that shooters often choose schools because they know people will be unarmed.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
"If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials that were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop an individual trying to get into the school," he <a href="http://www.wtop.com/610/3162096/Gov-Is-it-time-to-arm-school-officials">told WTOP's "Ask the Governor" show</a> Tuesday, warning that Washington may respond to such a policy with a "knee-jerk reaction."
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) & State Sen. Frank Niceley (R)
Gov. Haslam says he will consider a Tennessee plan to secretly arm and train some teachers, <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/tennessee-armed-teachers.php">TPM reports</a>. The legislation will be introduced by State Sen. Frank Niceley (R) next month. "Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun]," Niceley told TPM. "These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have."
Oklahoma State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) & State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R)
State Rep. Mark McCullough (R) <a href="http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=336&articleid=20121217_336_0_OKLAHO168827">told the Tulsa World</a> he plans to file legislation that would bring guns into schools, calling their absence "irresponsible." “It is incredibly irresponsible to leave our schools undefended – to allow mad men to kill dozens of innocents when we have a very simple solution available to us to prevent it," he said. "I’ve been considering this proposal for a long time. In light of the savagery on display in Connecticut, I believe it’s an idea whose time has come." Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) told the Tulsa World that teachers should carry concealed weapons at school events. "Allowing teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits the ability to have weapons at school events would provide both a measure of security for students and a deterrent against attackers," he said.
Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R)
Baxley, who once sponsored Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, <a href="http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2012/12/17/florida-legislator-allow-guns-in-schools/">told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune </a>that keeping guns out of schools makes them a target for attacks. “We need to be more realistic at looking at this policy," he said. "In our zealousness to protect people from harm we’ve created all these gun-free zones and what we’ve inadvertently done is we’ve made them a target. A helpless target is exactly what a deranged person is looking for where they cannot be stopped.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R)
At a Tea Party event Monday night, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/rick-perry-guns-in-schools_n_2322185.html">Perry praised a Texas school system that allows some staff to carry concealed weapons to work</a> and encouraged local school districts to make their own policies.
Minnesota State Rep. Tony Cornish (R)
Cornish <a href="http://www.kdlt.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22736&Itemid=57">plans to introduce legislation that would allow teachers to arm themselves</a>, according to the AP.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson (R)
In an email <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/oregon-state-rep-dennis-richardson-teacher-guns-stopped-connecticut-shooting_n_2317444.html?ir=Education">obtained by Gawker</a> and excerpted below, Richardson tells three superintendents that he could have saved lives had he been armed and in Sandy Hook on Friday: <blockquote>If I had been a teacher or the principal at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and if the school district did not preclude me from having access to a firearm, either by concealed carry or locked in my desk, most of the murdered children would still be alive, and the gunman would still be dead, and not by suicide. ... [O]ur children's safety depends on having a number of well-trained school employees on every campus who are prepared to defend our children and save their lives?</blockquote>
Former Education Secretary Bill Bennett
"And I'm not so sure -- and I'm sure I'll get mail for this -- I'm not so sure I wouldn't want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing," Bennett, who served as education secretary under Ronald Reagan, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/bill-bennett-education-secretary-connecticut-shooting_n_2311774.html">told <em>Meet the Press</em> Sunday</a>. "The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who's trained, responsible. But, my god, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to."