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Gun Control

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The crime revived memories of a massacre in April at Virginia Tech university, where a student killed 32 people.

There has been a string of such shooting sprees in recent years, but little resonance among national politicians.

The right to bear arms is fiercely defended as a U.S. constitutional right by large numbers of collectors, hunters and advocates of home security, cherished the way civil libertarians champion the right to free speech.

Yet the issue is controversial enough to draw in the Supreme Court, which said last month it would review an appeals court ruling that struck down a 31-year-old ban on private possession of handguns in Washington, D.C.

"Although people who favor increased gun control in the United States are a substantial majority, those who oppose it are far more intense in their opposition and far more likely to vote on the basis of that issue alone," said Bill Galston, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

He cited the 1994 elections when the Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress. Some political analysts attributed the rout to backlash against a Democratic-led ban on assault weapons. That law was allowed to expire 10 years later.

"I might want to qualify that judgment, but the fact that it's widely believed and that there is some basis for it is enough to determine political behavior," Galston said.


A Pennsylvania state representative who last month helped defeat a proposal to limit hand gun purchases to one per person per month said he would support tougher sentencing laws for people who acquire and use illegal guns, but that law-abiding citizens should not have their rights infringed.

"I received thousands of e-mails with



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