Even in the wake of last months Colorado shooting rampage and a gunmans spree last year that nearly killed former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, dont expect Democrats to arrive in Charlotte armed with renewed calls for tougher gun laws.
The issue is too risky.
Yet with the partys platform committee set to hammer out its positions on everything from homeland security to Social Security and Medicare next week in Detroit, some North Carolina Democrats say theyll push the party to at least take a tougher stand on controlling access to assault weapons.
Democrats havent been altogether forceful on the (gun control) issue, said state Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro, an N.C. delegate and member of the partys platform committee. But given the recent shootings in Arizona and Colorado and a ton of shootings around the country that dont get all the attention we need to be, and can be, more thoughtful on the guns issue.
She will urge the party to support reinstituting a 1994 ban on assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, and attempts to renew it have grabbed little traction.
Gun rights groups are too powerful, Harrison said. They argue that any form of gun control makes it hard for crime victims to defend themselves and that criminals would get guns illegally. The anti-control people arent willing to cede any ground and compromise, said Harrison, who owns guns for shooting sporting clays or skeet. Assault weapons are nearly impossible to justify. I plan to go to Detroit and advocate for a stronger position.
The July 20 shooting that killed 12 and wounded 58 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater gave gun control supporters new ammunition to push for renewal of the assault weapon ban. It banned 19 models of semiautomatic guns.
Colorado authorities say doctoral student James Holmes, the alleged gunman, legally bought a semiautomatic AR-15 with a 100-round magazine.
The gun would have been banned under the 1994 law.
Harrison also wants federal lawmakers to require states to share gun data to help prevent people from legally amassing a 6,000-round arsenal as police say Holmes did.
There is no justification for allowing an individual to shoot off that many rounds, Harrison said.
Shell find some support from fellow North Carolinians.
N.C. Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh, a former N.C. House speaker, is all for Democrats addressing access to assault and other military-style weapons.
I certainly support the Second Amendment (right to bear arms), but I dont think that everybody ought to be able to have a tank in their back yard, said Blue, a party rules committee member. Assault weapons are hard to control and theyre designed to mow down a lot of people.
Most people agree there needs to be some restrictions on the availability of these military-style weapons.
An intensely polarizing issue
Days after the Colorado shooting, gun control advocates took heart when President Barack Obama told the National Urban League his administration would leave no stone unturned to reduce gun violence including restricting gun ownership.
Even gun owners, Obama said, would agree that AK-47 assault rifles belonged in the hands of military troops, not children.