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But Garry McCann, who belongs to the National Rifle Association and owns four permitted guns, said shootings like the one at the Empire State Building wouldn’t happen if citizens could more easily protect themselves with legal weapons.
"If I were there, I would’ve put two bullets in the shooter’s head," said McCann, 60, of Manhattan.
He added: "Innocent people are getting killed. I don’t know what needs to be done. But taking the guns out of the hands of responsible people like me, that’s not the way. Then only the bad guys will be left with guns."
In Colorado, Troy Teeter, a 40-year-old youth pastor who knows some of the young people who witnessed the theater massacre in Aurora, scoffed at the notion that public officials should do anything to prevent gun violence.
"I don’t think there’s anything that can be done about it. Certainly not by a politician," he said.
His attitude is reflected in polling data that show a decisive shift away from tougher gun laws. According to a 1990 Gallup poll, nearly eight in 10 said laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, while 19 percent said they should remain the same or be loosened. Last year, 43 percent favored tighter gun laws, and 55 percent said they should stay the same or be made more lenient.
And voters rank guns as a low priority in the presidential election. An AP-GfK poll of persuadable voters found only one person who called the gun issue the most important in deciding whom to support for president.
While gun control might be a losing issue for Democrats nationally, Acree, the Chicago pastor, said politicians of both stripes need to show more courage.
"This is the civil rights issue of our day and time," said Acree, who works with a coalition of Chicago clergy that has called on Obama to push for a renewed assault-weapons ban. "We cannot ignore our urban violence crisis, in Chicago and in New York and in Detroit."
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