By LAURA FIGUEROA
Amid a re-energized national debate over gun control, four members of the Long Island congressional delegation and New York's U.S. senators said they would back a ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines of the type used in the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Their comments came as officials said President Barack Obama would "actively" support a ban on the weapons. The National Rifle Association said it would offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," and scheduled a "major" news conference for Friday.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola), whose political career has focused on gun control, announced she will co-sponsor the House version of a bill banning assault weapons with a Colorado House member whose district includes Aurora, where a fatal movie theater shooting in July left 12 dead and 58 injured. The measure also would prohibit the sale of large ammunition clips.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he voted in favor of the 1994 ban despite "pushback" from fellow Republicans. He said he would vote again for a ban and for closing the loophole that allows certain types of guns to be sold at gun shows without background checks.
"We're basically all in agreement," King said of the delegation's support for a ban. "Whatever bill comes up, I would imagine we would all be basically supportive of it."
In the Senate, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she would introduce the measure next month at the start of the new Congress.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that Obama, "is actively supportive of" Feinstein's effort to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Carney also said Obama "certainly . . . would be interested in looking at" legislation aimed at high-capacity ammunition clips.
The 1994 bill banned 18 types of semiautomatic assault weapons. Feinstein has said she also would like the ban to include ammunition clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.
"During these dark days when too many Americans are still dying every day from gun violence, it brings great hope to hear that President Obama is open to supporting our efforts to save lives through legislation," said McCarthy, whose husband was killed and her son seriously injured in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road massacre.
Calls for stricter gun control have intensified since the shootings Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 first-graders and six adults were killed.
Gunman Adam Lanza, 20, reportedly used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, prompting the gunmaker's private equity owner Cerberus Capital Management Lp to put the arms company up for sale Tuesday. Dick's Sporting Goods, the nation's largest sporting-goods chain, also announced it was suspending sales of modern sporting rifles in response to the tragedy.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund, which manages $150 billion, also is reviewing its investments in gunmakers, a spokesman for State Comptroller
Thomas DiNapoli said. New York City pension funds are reconsidering about $18 million in the stocks of Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger and two other firms whose businesses include gun manufacturing.
Republicans open to reforms
While previous bills looking to extend the ban have been unsuccessful, Republican leaders who in the past opposed such measures have signaled their willingness to consider reforms. The gun control issue took center stage during a closed-door meeting of House Republican Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Rep. Jack Kingston, a Republican from Georgia, told The Associated Press after the meeting: "Put guns on the table, also put video games on the table, put mental health on the table."
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), whose sister-in-law lives in Newtown, backed a ban on assault weapons and ammunition clips, and said he was encouraged about the legislation because "there are a lot of New Yorkers in leadership positions working on this." He cited New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long called for stricter gun-control laws as an example.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said he would vote for the ban, and spent Tuesday talking to Republican House colleagues urging them to do the same. "We keep on seeing these horrors as teachable moments and then we quickly forget the lessons until the next horror occurs," he said in an interview.
New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, strongly came out in support of the assault weapons ban and also closing the so-called gun-show loophole. Schumer is the Senate sponsor of a bill by McCarthy called the "Fix Gun Checks Act" that would require background checks at the shows.
Still, support for tighter gun controls wasn't universal.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, told a tea party group on Monday that he opposed "knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C." in the wake of the shootings and said that schoolteachers and administrators should be allowed to carry concealed weapons, according to The Dallas Morning News.
In Ohio, Gov. John R. Kasich said he still intended to sign a bill allowing guns in the parking garages of the State Capitol, saying in a statement to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland that he is "a Second Amendment supporter and that's not going to change."
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose district includes a portion of Nassau County, did not return repeated calls for comment. But in a statement posted on his website a day after the Newtown shooting he wrote, "My colleagues and I must act to stop access to the guns that are used in such horrific crimes, but that struggle is for another day."