Last Friday’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has reignited a national debate over gun control and calls for action in the next Congress. Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County could be a key player in the process, and a potential brake on a push for new gun control measures.
Goodlatte is the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over firearms regulations. He has an “A” rating from the politically muscular National Rifle Association, which has led the charge to block new gun control laws in Congress and in state legislatures.
The Roanoke Times reached out Tuesday to Goodlatte’s office and to the other congressmen who represent parts of Southwest Virginia – Republicans Morgan Griffith of Salem and Robert Hurt of Chatham – to ask where they stand on issues such as reinstituting the assault weapons ban and requiring background checks for private sales at gun shows. In response, all three generally refrained from stating a position out of respect for the families of the Newtown victims.
Goodlatte issued this statement: “Our hearts and prayers as a nation are with Newtown. We must take a close look at what happened on Friday morning and what can be done to help avoid it in the future. However, today my focus remains on the community of Newtown and the families of the victims as they mourn the lives lost in this terrible tragedy.”
But Goodlatte told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that he does not favor tightening controls on firearms, such as banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines after the killings in Newtown last week.
“We’re going to take a look at what happened there and what can be done to help avoid it in the future, but gun control is not going to be something that I would support,” Goodlatte told Roll Call.
The gun control debate is heating up in Washington at a time when Goodlatte is hearing some rumblings of discontent from Republicans back in his home district. Last month, the GOP’s 6th District Congressional Committee called on Goodlatte to oppose the re-election of House Speaker John Boehner. In a letter to Goodlatte, the district committee complained that Boehner had not done enough to thwart President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
– Michael Sluss