Al Franken didn't want to talk gun control on Friday; Betty McCollum did

In the hours after the Newtown shooting, McCollum (right) was in a much more political mood than Franken.
In the hours after the Newtown shooting, McCollum (right) was in a much more political mood than Franken.

In the wake of a tragedy, when is it appropriate to start talking about its political implications?

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Unfortunately, that's a question elected officials had to face Friday following the horrible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and comments made by Senator Al Franken and Representative Betty McCollum illustrated how politicians from the same party answered it differently.

From an MPR report published Friday afternoon:

DFL Sen. Al Franken declined to say today whether he would support tougher gun laws after the school shooting in Connecticut.

"I'm not sure this is the day to start looking at policy regarding this," Franken said. "This is the day for us to have the victims and their families in our hearts, in our prayers and in our thoughts."

Compare Franken's "I'm not sure this is the day" comment to a statement McCollum released that same afternoon:

"Today's elementary school shooting is heartbreaking. As a mother, the mass murder of young school children and educators is incomprehensible. My prayers are with all families of the victims."

"The time has come for President Obama, Congress and the American people to come together to act immediately to end the epidemic of gun violence and the proliferation of guns designed to be weapons of mass murder. Inaction and obstruction by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to common sense gun laws is not tolerable."

McCollum was especially outspoken. For example, consider the tame-by-comparison statement published on Rep. Keith Ellison's website:

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic shooting today in a Connecticut elementary school that took the lives of 27, including 18 children. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims. As a father, I cannot imagine the pain and grief that comes from losing a child in such a senseless tragedy. While we do not yet know the full details of what happened today, I know our nation will come together to support the community of Newtown."

But later that evening, Ellison was ready to talk about Newtown's political implications, as he offered up these remarks during an appearance on TPT's Almanac (from an MPR report):

"The NRA (National Rifle Association) is strong and many of them (members of Congress) take the position that any gun position is going to lead to the position of taking away of all guns," Ellison said. "This is not rational. We need sane, sensible gun regulation and we need it now."

Ellison says his top initiatives would be to address high capacity clips that hold multiple rounds of bullets and greater background checks that require people to submit to background checks before purchasing weapons at gun shows.

"Those are things that we can do now that won't interfere with the right to own a gun but hopefully will avoid and keep guns out of the hands out of the people who are violently unstable," Ellison said.

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