Harry Reid Open To Gun Control Debate After Sandy Hook Shooting

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled Monday that gun control laws would be up for debate after the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School, making him the highest-ranking pro-gun politician in the nation to hint that his mind may be changing.

Mourning the victims of the Friday massacre along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Reid said that the community of Newtown and the country face a difficult time coping with the immensity of the tragedy. But, unlike with past shooting sprees, he said that coping will include considering what Congress can do about the devastating violence.

"I believe part of that healing process will require Congress to examine what can be done to prevent more tragedies like the ones in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; and Portland, Ore.," Reid said, referring to other recent mass slayings.

"As President Obama said last night, no one law can erase evil. No policy can prevent a determined madman from committing a senseless act of violence," he said. "But we need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens.

"In the coming days and weeks, we will engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow," Reid said. "We have no greater responsibility than keeping our most vulnerable and most precious resource -- our children -- safe. And every idea should be on the table as we discuss how best to do just that."

McConnell raised no such prospects of legislation in offering support for the torn community of Newtown.

"There's no escaping the fact that the massacre at Sandy Hook stands out for its awfulness," McConnell said. "The murder of so many little children and the adults who tried to save them doesn’t just break our hearts -- it shatters them."

He offered prayers to the victims and families, if not any new laws.

"We can do nothing to lessen their anguish," McConnell said, adding that "we can let them know that we mourn with them, that we share a tiny part of their burden in our own hearts."

Still, Reid's openness to new legislation marked what could be a shift that brings new laws this time. Reid had supported things like allowing people with concealed-carry permits to carry their guns across state lines, and previously he had not called for debating new laws.

Other pro-gun lawmakers who have sounded more open to new legislation since the Friday killings include Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Rep. John Yarmouth (D-Ky.) has also said he regrets not addressing the escalating gun violence.

In order for something to pass Congress, there would need to be a change of attitude in the House as well. There are at least 10 bills that have been bottled up there that could be voted on quickly if the leadership were so-minded.

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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