Political Intelligence

Senator Scott Brown reverses position on federal assault weapons ban after Newtown massacre

Senator Scott Brown has reversed his position after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school and now says he supports a federal assault weapons ban.

“What happened in Newtown where those children were subject to that level of violence is beyond my comprehension,” Brown said in an interview today with the Springfield Republican newspaper. “As a state legislator in Massachusetts I supported an assault weapons ban thinking other states would follow suit. But unfortunately, they have not and innocent people are being killed. As a result, I support a federal assault weapons ban, perhaps like the legislation we have in Massachusetts.”

Brown had long said he opposed any new federal restrictions on guns and believed the issue was best left up to the states. He reiterated his opposition to tighter federal gun laws after previous attacks at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and at US Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, Ariz.

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“I’m not in favor of doing any additional federal regulations relating to any type of weapons or federal gun changes,” Brown told the Globe shortly after the Tucson attack last year. “I feel it should be left up to the states.”

Brown’s shift on guns comes at a time when he is believed to be positioning himself for a return to the Senate. The Massachusetts Republican, who is leaving next month after being defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is said to be readying a run for Senator John F. Kerry’s seat, if Kerry is named secretary of state, as expected.

In his interview with the Springfield Republican, Brown said he believes mental health care could also help prevent gun violence.

“I also think we need to look at mental health in this country and see if we can keep these weapons out of the hands of people with severe issues,” Brown said. “I think it’s time for all of us to have these conversations.”

Brown spoke as he is recovering from hernia surgery that he had on Monday. An aide described Brown as uncomfortable, but still working out of Washington.

Brown’s statement came several hours after Warren called for banning assault weapons and said she will sign on to the measure that Senator Dianne Feinstein of California plans to introduce next month.

In an e-mail entitled, “We Must Try,” Warren told supporters she would push for “common-sense gun control measures,” following Friday’s shooting in which a man broke into a Newtown, Conn., elementary school and shot and killed 20 children and six adults.

“The ultimate causes of such tragedy are impossible to understand fully, but the difficulty of untangling all the elements is not an excuse for failing to do what we can to make our children safer,” Warren wrote. “We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our children to take the steps we can to stop the violence.”

A ban on assault weapons ban expired in 2004, and Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, has announced her intentions to reintroduce it next year.

Today, President Obama also called on Congress to reinstate the ban and to close the gun show loophole that lets people buy guns from dealers without a background check.

Warren, who was raised in Oklahoma, said she learned to shoot when she was in grade school, and her brothers hunt, but that “no one needs military-grade assault weapons to hunt, and no one needs Rambo-style high capacity magazines to protect their family from intruders.”

She added: “If eight children were dying every day from a mysterious virus, our country would mobilize to put a stop to it. ... As with other epidemics, we must do everything we can to make a difference for people through prevention and treatment.”

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