The conservative Blue Dog Democrat has long been a staunch supporter of gun rights and has an "A'' rating from the National Rifle Association.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the dean of Minnesota's congressional delegation, said Thursday that reviving a ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips won't solve the problem of gun violence.
The conservative Blue Dog Democrat has long been a staunch supporter of gun rights and has an "A'' rating from the National Rifle Association. He represents a mostly rural northwestern Minnesota district.
In an interview on KFGO-AM of Fargo-Moorhead, Peterson said last week's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school "has to some extent changed the conversation." And, he added, "I'm willing to have this discussion as long as everything is on the table." But he suggested that the discussion should include violent video games and movies.
Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat from southern Minnesota who was also reelected with NRA endorsement, said this week he's rethinking his opposition to the assault weapons ban, which existed for 10 years until it expired in 2004. He stopped short of endorsing a new assault weapons ban, but said the killings in Connecticut had shifted the ground under the debate, and predicted that Second Amendment supporters and the gun lobby are ready to show some flexibility.
But Peterson said the old assault weapons ban didn't reduce violence and that reinstating the prohibition against 30-round ammunition clips won't make a difference because smaller clips can be changed out quickly anyway. In fact, he argued, there's really no such thing as an assault weapon — a claim gun control opponents have often made — and that gun manufacturers have been "stupid" for using the term.
"We're looking at solutions that aren't really going to solve the problem," Peterson said.
Peterson did not respond to requests from The Associated Press on Wednesday and Thursday for an interview on gun issues. A spokesman for GOP U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, another gun rights supporter, also said she was not available to discuss the subject this week.
Peterson had a TV ad in the fall campaign that showed him dressed in hunting gear and holding a shotgun. He vowed he'd "take aim at any plan that undermines Social Security or Medicare." An NRA logo came up in a corner of the screen as he loaded a shell into the chamber, blasted a clay pigeon and proclaimed, "I'm a straight shooter."
The killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a man armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle revived bloggers' memories of comments Bachmann made to WHO-AM radio in Des Moines, Iowa, during her presidential campaign a year ago when she called the AR-15 her favorite gun, praising its accuracy and firepower.
"I love it. It's a great gun," she said.
Bachmann also noted in that interview that she helped pass Minnesota's law that made it easier to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun, and has a permit herself.
Among other members of the state's congressional delegation, Rep.-elect Rick Nolan, a Democrat who will represent northeastern Minnesota, told the Brainerd Dispatch on Monday that the school shootings might have changed some minds on gun control.
"I sense a tremendous mood shift that says we've got to do something about it," Nolan said. "There are a couple of things emerging. No. 1 people don't need military assault rifles to protect their home or go hunting. We've had bans on all kinds of military weapons. Bans on machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades."
Democratic Reps. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar have called for banning assault-style weapons and large ammo clips. Democratic Sen. Al Franken said he had supported a large clip ban before but wanted more information. But Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents a suburban-rural area south of the Twin Cities, said there's little evidence a new ban would help.