Cheney opens door to tighter gun restrictions

/ Source: NBC, msnbc.com and news services

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a staunch gun advocate, says tighter weapons regulations might be "appropriate" to prevent another tragedy like the Arizona mass shootings that left six people dead and a congresswoman seriously wounded.

Cheney, an avid hunter, said he is "willing to listen to ideas" on how to better control the purchase and use of firearms.

"Whether or not there's some measure there in terms of limiting the size of the magazine that you can buy to go with a semiautomatic weapon — we’ve had that in place before. Maybe it’s appropriate to re-establish that kind of thing, but I think you do have to be careful obviously," Cheney told NBC's Jamie Gangel, national correspondent for "TODAY."

"We’re looking for ways to make sure this never happens again, but you’ve still got to go back to the fact that it looks like the cause of this particular tragedy was this one individual who apparently has very serious mental problems," Cheney said in the interview, parts of which aired Wednesday.

The Arizona shooting spree on Jan. 8 in Tucson that claimed six lives and left 13 others wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has renewed the debate over gun control measures.

Jared Loughner, 22, is accused of shooting Giffords in the face and then turning his gun on a crowd of people waiting to meet the congresswoman. The weapon used in the attack, a Glock 19 with an oversize clip capable of firing around 30 rounds without reloading, was legally purchased by Loughner two months before, Arizona authorities have said.

The shootings have prompted some lawmakers to call for banning high-capacity gun magazines. A 1994 assault weapons ban outlawed such clips, but President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans allowed the ban to expire in 2004.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., on Tuesday introduced a bill to ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones allegedly used by Loughner. McCarthy's husband was killed  and son wounded by a gunman on the Long Island Railroad in 1993.

The bill would limit the number of clips sold in the U.S. to 10 rounds maximum.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., plans to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.

A new survey released Wednesday shows an overwhelming majority of U.S. gun owners, and Americans in general, support tougher measures to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and others barred by law from owning weapons.

Eighty-one percent of gun owners, and 86 percent of all Americans, back requiring personal background checks for all firearms sales, regardless of whether the weapon is bought from a licensed dealer or from a private seller at a gun show, the poll said.

Ninety percent of those polled in both groups also support fixing gaps in government databases that are designed to prevent criminals, mentally disturbed people and others from obtaining guns.

The survey of 1,003 registered voters nationwide was conducted from Jan. 11 through Jan. 13 jointly by the Republican-aligned polling firm American Viewpoint and the Democratic-oriented firm Momentum Analysis, and released by the bipartisan coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.