Gun debate may be over before it begins - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Gun debate may be over before it begins

Paul Helmke Paul Helmke
Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui

Tom Walker/Eyewitness News

Washington, DC - High profile Hoosiers are weighing in on whether new gun laws are needed after this week's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

But on Capitol Hill it may be a non-debate.

Paul Helmke wrapped up yet another network television interview Friday. Over the last week, he has shuttled from studio to studio to debate gun control in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, a subject about which there has been plenty of talk.

Not long ago the Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Helmke now leads the Brady Campaign, one of the most prominent groups arguing that guns are simply too easy to get and that this week's killings have simply put the latest face on that argument.

"People are realizing that what we're doing isn't working, that the way we've approached guns and gun violence in this country isn't working," said Helmke

But Helmke is up against a strong political current in Congress running against new bans on guns.

"I don't think the people of Indiana, or Americans generally, are interested in a knee-jerk gun control solution out of Congress," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana).

Even Democrats, convinced that candidates who have pushed gun control have paid a price for it, are not eager to get out front again. Part of the reason they control Congress is because many newly-elected Democrats like Rep. Brad Ellsworth from Indiana are from largely conservative districts.

"I think that right now the Democratic Party is in a holding pattern on gun control," said Jenny Backus, Democratic strategist.

Both Democrats and Republicans say there may be a need to take a look at new restrictions affecting those with mental problems. But many here believe the chance of major new gun laws, even in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, is zero.

Authorities say the Virginia Tech killer was able to buy guns because a background check did not turn up his history of mental illness.

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