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Spate of Christmas Eve Attacks Recharge National Conversation on Gun Violence

December 24, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Gunfire tore at the nation’s holiday mood again Monday with the emotional wounds from a school massacre still fresh. There were more fatal shootings, including one in Rochester, N.Y., where an attacker lay in wait for a fire crew, and in Houston, where a gunman killed a police officer and another man before being captured.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Gunfire tore at the nation’s holiday mood again today, with the emotional wounds from a school massacre still fresh. There were more fatal shootings, including one in Western New York, where an attacker lay in wait for a fire crew.

GERALD PICKERING, Webster Police Chief: The responding firefighters when they pulled up on the scene were — started receiving — were fired upon.

JEFFREY BROWN: Police in Webster, NY, speaking shortly after a home and a car erupted in flames. It was arson, they said later, that turned out to be an ambush.

MAN: It does appear that it was a trap that was set for responding — first-responders.

JEFFREY BROWN: Gunmen killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others, then killed himself. Police identified him as William Spengler. He had done time, 17 years for manslaughter, but his motive for today’s attack was unknown.

And in Houston, a gunman killed a police officer and another man before being captured. The spate of Christmas Eve attacks came amid a renewed national debate over stopping gun violence that flared to life after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut 10 days ago. On Friday, the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, called for armed guards in every school and dismissed calls for new gun legislation.

That stance was met in some quarters with a wave of headlines and editorials that lampooned LaPierre and condemned the NRA’s refusal to give any ground on gun control.

But Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” LaPierre was unrepentant.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, Executive Vice President, National Rifle Association: If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our school to protect our children, then call me crazy.

I will tell you what the American people — I think the American people think it’s crazy not to do it. It’s the one thing that would keep people safe. And the NRA is going to try to do that.

JEFFREY BROWN: On the same program, New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer called LaPierre tone-deaf.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-NY: He blames everything but guns, movies, the media, President Obama, gun-free school zones. You name it, the video games, he blames them. Now, trying to prevent shootings in schools without talking about guns is like trying to prevent lung cancer without talking about cigarettes.

JEFFREY BROWN: Schumer and other Democrats, including the president, are now urging a renewed ban on assault-style weapons and curbs on high-capacity ammunition magazines. And some Republicans have joined in. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas spoke Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TX: I think we ought to be looking at where the real danger is. Like, those large clips, I think that does need to be looked at.

JEFFREY BROWN: But fellow Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina argued a new ban on assault weapons wouldn’t make the country safer.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SC: The best way to interrupt a shooter is to keep him out of the school, and if they get in the school have somebody that can interrupt them through armed force.

JEFFREY BROWN: And Connecticut independent Senator Joe Lieberman observed on CNN that passing new gun laws won’t be easy.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (I), CT: The strength of the NRA is that more than half of the abuts in America have guns, own guns, and have them in their homes. And we have to convince them that none of the proposals will take their guns away.

JEFFREY BROWN: Indeed, the fear of stricter regulation may already be having an effect. Gun store owners around the country have reported their stock is flying of the shelves.

LARRY HYATT, Hyatt Gun Shop Owner: We have Christmas business, the hunting season business, and now we have the political business.

JEFFREY BROWN: But back in Newtown, the focus remained on coping with a Christmas ravaged by grief. A local post office received a flood of cards with messages of hope and townspeople expect to light hundreds of outdoor candles tonight for the 26 shooting victims.