Shootings Unlikely to Trigger Fresh Debate

In the last week alone, there have been at least six incidents in which three or more people were gunned down in cold blood, leaving behind outrage, sadness and unanswered questions as to why the shooters went on their rampages.

Prosecutors charged a Baltimore teen with fatally shooting his parents and two brothers. An unidentified gunman, who is still on the run, shot five women dead in a shopping mall in a Chicago suburb.

Three people were murdered in a shooting spree at a suburban Maryland pizza restaurant. In Los Angeles, police say a man fatally shot three family members and a police officer before authorities killed him.

Thursday night, a city hall became a horrific shooting gallery, and Friday, police say a woman in Louisiana walked into a vocational school's classroom and shot two fellow students before taking her own life.

In all these cases, people died at the hands of shooters using guns that were readily available, either in stores or on the black market.

Few expect this rash of fatal shootings to necessarily reopen the debate over gun control in the United States. Even those who support more restrictions on guns admit they have been losing ground.

"Politicians are more concerned with having a little red tape that makes it harder for someone to get a gun than they are about the yellow police tape that shows up at these crime scenes," Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told ABC News.

"Almost universally, regardless of party, regardless of ideology, regardless of which office they're running for, the politicians are afraid to talk about it," he said.

Citing a low number of restrictions on gun purchases, weak enforcement of gun dealers on the street and the lapsed assault weapons ban, Helmke said, "In this country we make it very easy for dangerous people to get guns. If you're angry, if you're depressed, if you're upset with your boss, if you're upset with your spouse, you can probably find a gun within a day."

Sensing the upper hand, those who support gun owners' rights have been aggressive in pushing their cause.

Friday, 55 senators and 251 members of Congress were expected to file a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to uphold a ruling that says a Washington, D.C., handgun ban violates the U.S. Constitution. The case is set to be argued before the court next month.

Calling the D.C. handgun ban "the harshest gun control ordinance anywhere," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas., said that under the ban, "a person has no chance to defend themselves against an intruder. And that is, in my mind, the clearest violation of the Second Amendment that could ever be put before the court."

Describing the recent spate of gun violence as "horrible," Hutchison said, "but I also have to step back and say that maybe if these people had had their own weapons to defend themselves, maybe some of these things wouldn't have happened."

The senator says measures such as background checks and assault weapon bans are reasonable but cautioned against implementing more regulations as the antidote to this type of violent offense, saying individuals intent on causing harm would not let laws get in the way of carrying out their crimes.

"There's no doubt in my mind that a person so deranged would find a gun, illegally, and all the gun control in the world is not going to stop the criminal. But what it does stop is the right of a law abiding citizen to defend themselves."

Polling on American attitudes about gun control presents a mixed picture. Six in 10 Americans favor stricter gun control laws, but three-quarters believe the Constitution does guarantee individuals the right to own guns.

Regardless, there is a harsh reality: Even if gun sales stopped immediately, and another gun was never sold in the United States, fatal shootings probably wouldn't end anytime soon.

That's because, according to law enforcement sources, there are already more than 230 million guns already in circulation in this country.

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