WASHINGTON - Republican lawmakers on Tuesday opened the door to a national debate about gun control following the Connecticut school massacre, a small sign of easing in Washington's reluctance to seriously consider new federal weapons restrictions.
Republican members of the House of Representatives, where the party holds a majority of seats, discussed the killings in their weekly closed-door conference meeting and said afterward there was more willingness now to talk about regulating weapons.
"You are going to have some people who never, never go there," Representative Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, told reporters, referring to a small number of Republicans who will not countenance any talk of gun regulation.
"But yes, I think most Republicans are willing to have a very, very serious conversation about what this means and taking a second look at what the Second Amendment (guaranteeing the right to bear arms) means in the 21st century," he said.
Republicans are traditionally strong gun-rights advocates and receive far more campaign donations than Democrats from the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, which has opposed previous attempts at weapons controls.
The NRA was largely silent for the first few days after the shooting rampage at the Newtown, Connecticut, grade school in which 26 people, including 20 young children, were slain.