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Monday, October 5, 2015

 11:12 AM 

Johnson: 'Thoughtful discussion' needed on gun laws

The country needs a "thoughtful discussion" on gun laws that avoids politics and focuses on the causes of mass shootings such as the one in Oregon Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said.

The Oshkosh Republican was responding to questions at Madison-Kipp Corp. on Madison's east side Friday during the kickoff of his tour of companies in recognition of Wisconsin Manufacturing Month. Those questions focused on the shooting at Umpqua Community College that left nine people dead.

But Johnson told reporters any solution proposed to curb gun violence needs to show how it would have prevented the shootings.

"So I'm not just all for hopping on some particular solution just because, 'Well, we've got to do something,'" Johnson said. "Well, we have to make sure that whatever we do actually fixes the problem without depriving Americans of their constitutional and basic rights."

He said reviewing gun laws, the process for background checks and what some say is a loophole in the gun show law is worthwhile as long as it leads to gun violence prevention rather than just more bureaucracy.

He said lawmakers debated the topic after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. But Dems, he said, blocked an amendment that would have strengthened enforcement of gun laws and dealt with concerns about straw purchases.

The two sides, Johnson said, need to find common ground when seeking a solution.

"There are plenty of things that Republicans and, I think, Democrats could have agreed on if we would concentrate on what we agree on, the things that unite us, rather than things that exploit our divisions," he said.

There is a point President Barack Obama made that Johnson said he shares.

"We're getting immune," Johnson said. "It's happening way too often. So let's start the thoughtful discussion now. But, again, let's not politicize it."

Johnson also offered his ideas on Syrian refugees, including prioritizing those with family in the U.S. and using DNA testing to confirm the relations.

"We could do that actually very quickly," he said. "Those family members could be made to be responsible financially for the refugees coming in so the American taxpayers, their support is going to be minimal.

"So there's a way of doing this smartly, and that's what we have to do."

Johnson made it clear he does not think Obama has used a smart approach in Syria or the rest of the hotspots in the Middle East. Saying the president made a "historic blunder" by not leaving a stabilizing force in Iraq, the senator said the U.S. now needs to build a coalition to establish no-fly zones and safe havens for refugees in that country.

"President Obama has a strategy in the world, particularly in the Middle East," Johnson said. "It's called peace through withdrawal, and it's been a miserable failure. So you have to achieve peace through strength."


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