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Originally published December 18, 2012 at 9:06 PM | Page modified December 19, 2012 at 3:38 PM

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Lawmakers moving ahead on gun limits

The first concrete responses to the massacre in Newtown, Conn., began emerging Tuesday, as state leaders proposed measures to curb gun violence...

The New York Times

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The first concrete responses to the massacre in Newtown, Conn., began emerging Tuesday, as state leaders proposed measures to curb gun violence, corporations distanced themselves from an event that has traumatized the nation, and the White House pointed to gun-control measures that President Obama plans to champion in the months ahead.

The reactions were considerably more broad-based than what had followed previous mass shootings, coming from Republicans as well as Democrats, from gun-control advocates and those who have favored gun rights in the past, and even from the corporate and retail worlds. Proponents of stricter controls on firearms said they were cautiously optimistic that, perhaps this time, something concrete and lasting would be enacted.

In California, Democratic leaders introduced legislation mandating background checks and one-year permits for anyone who wants to buy ammunition there. In Michigan, a Republican governor vetoed legislation that would have permitted concealed weapons in schoolhouses. And a private-equity company announced that it would sell off the company that made the high-powered assault rifle used in the Newtown shootings last week.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) broke its silence on the massacre with what it called an "important statement," saying that the organization, which has steadfastly fought almost any gun-control legislation on the federal and state level, was potentially reconsidering its position.

"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again," the statement said.

It did not offer details.

This is hardly the first time that a mass killing on U.S. soil produced promises to curb firearms, only for those efforts to falter as memories faded and powerful gun advocates, led by the NRA, rose up in the halls of Washington or in statehouses.

Millions of U.S. gun owners — about 40 percent of U.S. households report having a gun — remained fervently committed to preserving their Second Amendment rights and deeply resistant to any moves to curtail gun rights. And not all the moves announced Tuesday pointed to stricter gun controls.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, announced he would sign legislation that would allow people to keep guns in their cars at the Statehouse garage, as well as make it easier to renew licenses and carry concealed weapons.

"I think as we move forward, whatever we do, we don't want to erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," he said.

Still, the cascading developments since Friday's shooting led one of the leading gun-control organizations, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, to proclaim a legal and cultural groundswell in the nation's view of firearms, reinforced with each new image of the funeral of an elementary-school child, 20 of whom were killed in the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with six adults.

"We've never seen anything like this before," said Brian Malte, the director of mobilization for the Brady Campaign.

At the White House, Jay Carney, the press secretary, suggested that Obama — who used his eulogy for the children Sunday to signal a personal effort to tackle gun control in his second term — said the president was likely to support the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons, similar to the type used in Newtown. Carney said he might support a ban on the kind of high-capacity ammunition clips used by the young gunman, Adam Lanza, who killed himself as police approached.

On Capitol Hill, some congressional Republicans on Tuesday were cautiously supporting the idea of exploring new gun policies. Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, said he would not outright reject the notion of limitations or bans on certain types of guns or ammunition and rejected the idea raised by some Republicans that it was too soon to begin debating legislative remedies.

"I don't see that it's too soon to talk about it," he said. "Americans, all our fellow citizens, are talking about it."

Whatever happens in Washington, there was growing evidence that, in some states, lawmakers and governors were moving forward.

The legislation introduced in California — backed by Democrats who have a commanding majority in both the Assembly and Senate after the November elections — moves the effort from curbing weapons to controlling the sale of ammunitions.

Other states have sought to control the sale of ammunition, among them Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey, but this would apparently be the most stringent yet, requiring a background check and an annual permit — at a cost of $50 — to buy any type of ammunition.

At the same time, John Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor of Colorado, a state still reeling from the mass killing of moviegoers in Aurora in July, called for bolstering firearm checks to make it more difficult for mentally ill people to buy handguns.

Hickenlooper proposed speeding the transfer of records that show when a person has been committed to a mental institution, so that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation could immediately access the information for firearm-background checks.

"The common element of so many of these mass homicides seems to be a level of mental illness," he said. "What happened in Newtown is beyond comprehension."

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