U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. — whose 2008 re-election campaign collected $9,900 from the NRA — partially blamed "violent video games and movies" rather than guns for Friday's massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
"We should ask the leaders of the entertainment industry whether they would want their children -- or those who might harm their children -- to watch the increasingly violent video games and movies that they pour into our culture," Alexander said Monday. "This is not the only cause of violence in our society, but it is one important cause."
Some news reports have indicated the 20-year-old Connecticut gunman played violent computer games. Alexander said "we must look closely at the behavior of isolated young men who develop an obsession with violence."
"The problem is not with the gun, but with the person pulling the trigger."
Alexander's comments came less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama all but started a national conversation on gun control.
"These tragedies must end," Obama said at a memorial service in Connecticut. "And to end them, we must change."
Tennessee's other U.S. senator expressed sympathy but sidestepped specific proposals.
"Given such an unspeakable act of violence perpetrated on children, it's appropriate to talk about what we're doing to keep our communities safe, recognizing the issues involved are complex," said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who received $4,950 in National Rifle Association funds this year. "Undoubtedly, every contributing factor will be examined."
U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais did not respond to Chattanooga Times Free Press questions about whether the deadly rampage changed their minds about gun control. The NRA gave both Tennessee Republicans $2,000 and official endorsements in tough re-election races this year.
Fleischmann said in a statement that he is praying for the families. DesJarlais did not respond at all.
Monday dawned with an overall pro-gun pall. The NRA shut down its Facebook page and 31 "pro-gun rights senators" turned down requests to appear on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday to discuss gun policy, according to show host David Gregory.
Their reluctance contrasted with Obama's call to action.
Speaking at a Newtown, Conn., memorial service Sunday night, Obama said "we must change" and promised to use "whatever power this office holds" to prevent "more tragedies like this."
While Obama failed to prescribe specific ideas, it was the clearest sign yet he's questioning national laws that allow relatively easy access to high-powered weapons.
He spoke two days after Adam Lanza used his mother's semiautomatic rifle to blast into Sandy Hook Elementary School and kill 26 people.
Some of the dead had as many as 11 wounds, according to The Washington Post. Lanza fatally shot his mother before the attack and killed himself in the school building.
Obama described "an endless series of deadly shootings" and linked Newtown to Aurora, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and other cities now synonymous with gun massacres that shocked America.
"We can't tolerate this anymore," he said.
Other lawmakers elaborated ideas. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., promised Sunday to push legislation in the next Congress to renew a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., also supports reinstating the ban. And U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative West Virginia Democrat and NRA member, said he's ready to consider tougher regulation.
"I don't know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I don't know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about."
Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican who represents Northwest Georgia, did not address Times Free Press questions about Friday's events. Graves received a 2010 NRA endorsement and $3,000 for his re-election campaign this year.
"This is a time to grieve for the lives lost and wait for investigators to gather information," he said in a statement.
Chris Carroll covers federal politics for the Times Free Press. A Chattanooga native, he went to Red Bank High School and graduated with honors from East Tennessee State University. Chris investigated violent crime, municipal government and hospitals before taking the political beat. For tornado coverage, he and Pam Sohn won a first-place Tennessee Associated Press Managing Editors deadline reporting award. In 2010, Chris won the Golden Press Card Award of Merit and another deadline reporting ...
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