Colo. shooting re-ignites gun control debate

WASHINGTON (CBS News) The carnage in Aurora, Colorado has re-opened the nation's debate about gun control. The issue came up after the 1999 Columbine massacre, but has largely been dormant since former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot 2011. New legislation is a long shot, especially in an election year. And while there is talk about about restricting who can own guns, sales of guns themselves are climbing.

One day after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, this Virginia firing range is packed.

Firearms instructor Mark Briley has a schedule of students. He said the tragedy in Aurora shouldn't change who can own one.

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"It makes no sense to penalize people for doing the right thing because a person does the wrong thing."

And gun owners have not been penalized. In fact, there hadn't been any new restrictions on gun ownership in the U.S. in the past four years. There are very few politicians willing to publicly battle to ban certain weapons.

"The bottom line is if we had fewer guns, we would have a lot fewer murders," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In an interview on Face the Nation to air Sunday, he blamed both President Obama and Mitt Romney for failing to do enough.

"It's time for both of them to be held accountable," said Bloomberg.

Yet popular fear of new laws has helped to pump up gun sales. Ruger and Smith & Wesson are backlogged with orders.

In the last three months, sales at Smith & Wesson are up 28 percent. Alleged shooter James Holmes also used one of their assault rifles to carry out the massacre. And applications for FBI background checks to buy guns are climbing.

While new laws aren't likely, first-time gun owner Annie Fowler said police should work harder to enforce existing laws for gun buyers.

"I think they're have been some laxes in how it's been done and I think it's important that it really be done -- a little bit of rigor," she said.

Even if new laws are enacted, it is unlikely that they would be able to separate gun owners from the nearly 300 million firearms already in U.S. households.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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