After school massacre, 100,000 Americans petition White House for gun control

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

In the first 15 hours following a mass-shooting that claimed more than two dozen lives Friday at a Connecticut elementary school, more than 100,000 Americans took their anger and frustration to the White House, asking the Obama administration for a renewed national debate on gun control.

The White House’s online petition system, dubbed “We the People,” previously attracted national attention when political conservatives in all 50 states banded together to petition the White House for a path to secede from the United States. (RELATED: Top 10 most ridiculous ‘We the People’ petitions)

But with at least eight separate active gun-control petitions, Friday’s effort produced greater support in barely 15 hours than the secession drive collected in its first 72.

The largest gun-control petition collected more than 62,000 digital signatures. The White House promises to review petitions that attract at least 25,000 supporters in a 30-day period.

“David G” — the White House identifies petitioners without providing their last names — submitted that petition, writing that his goal was “to force the Obama administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. … [L]aws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths.”

The petition veered into constitutionally murky waters, however, arguing that firearms lobby groups “allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose.”

“[A]ccess to firearms,” it read, “reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.” (RELATED AUDIO — Limbaugh: Liberals, media will try to blame shooting on Republicans)

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on Americans’ right to bear arms in several landmark cases — most recently with the 2010 “District of Columbia v. Heller” decision that forbade individual states or other jurisdictions from having tighter gun-ownership standards than the U.S. Constitution prescribes.

But since “Heller,” four of the 13 federal courts of appeals have ruled that some limits should apply, specifically regarding machine guns.

Gun control advocates have also argued for the reinstatement of what President Bill Clinton called an “assault weapons ban.” That legislation, passed in 1994, banned the private ownership of rifles and other weapons that appeared cosmetically identical to fully automatic military-style machine guns.

The ban expired in 2004. Despite several attempts by congressional Democrats, it has not been revived. President Barack Obama argued during his 2008 campaign that the law should be renewed, but his administration didn’t take action on the issue during the first two years of his administration when both houses of Congress were under his party’s control.

Still, reinstating the ban “does remain a commitment of his,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday. (RELATED VIDEO: Obama hints at new gun-rights curbs after deadly shooting)

Obama was more cryptic, saying during a public statement that the federal government should “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old suspect who allegedly killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, carried three firearms — two handguns, and a Bushmaster .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle that would have fit the criteria of the 1994 federal government ban.

Other White House petitions seemed to react to Carney’s statement Friday that “today is not the day” to debate gun laws.

“Today IS the day,” read the title of a petition supported by more than 10,600 people. “Sponsor strict gun control laws in the wake of the CT school massacre.”

Another petition was more pointed.

“Every time a mass shooting happens in the United States,” it read, “we are told by the White House, the federal government and its benefactors in the NRA [National Rifle Association] that, ‘Now is not the time’ to have a conversation about increased regulation of firearms. … So, if ‘now’ is not the time to have a conversation about gun control, let’s set a time.”

That petition was the second most popular effort, with more than 15,000 supporters. (RELATED: Sandy Brook shooter’s mother found dead in her home)

“It is long past time to begin this conversation. Now is the time,” read another petition with a more modest following of less than 3,500.

Two other petitions reacting to Friday’s mass shooting took different tacks in response.

One asked the Obama administration to “make mental health a national emergency.” About 3,000 people supported it.

Lanza’s elder brother reportedly told investigators Friday that Adam was medicated for an unspecified “personality disorder,” and that he was “somewhat autistic,” according to ABC News.

“In light of the recent shootings … we believe it is time for the mental health of the nation to be taken seriously,” the petition requested. “This includes the health of individuals, communities, and the country as a whole.”

Still another petition — this one with fewer than 1,300 supporters — walked in the opposite direction from gun-control activists’ prescriptions, caling for “a gun in every classroom.”

“Arm every teacher and principal to defend themselves and their students during an attack,” it suggested.

“Fact: Crime rates decrease when the people are better armed. It is time we gave our teachers the ability to defend themselves and stop pretending like a door buzzer is enough of a defense. Take a stand for school safety. Arm the teachers and principals today”

Follow David on Twitter