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WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Minnesota Democrat endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), said he is rethinking his opposition to a ban on assault weapons.
"I feel like I've got feet firmly in different camps," he said in an interview Tuesday. "Between the right of gun ownership and public safety."
Walz said that while he remains a "proud" defender of gun rights, he believes the gun lobby and other Second Amendment advocates are ready to show more flexibility as the nation searches for ways to prevent tragedies like the one in Connecticut on Friday.
"They're going to be willing to be part of the solution and to be sitting at the table and to offer up some things," he said.
Walz's remarks came as the NRA said it is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again."
Walz was one of 65 Democrats in the U.S. House who signed a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 opposing any prospective moves by the Obama administration to ban assault or military-style weapons.
But he said the Connecticut school massacre has shifted the ground both in public opinion and in Congress.
"I would like to think you're always evolving," he said. "It would be inhuman to not think you're not touched by these things."
While stopping short of endorsing new efforts to ban assault weapons, Walz said he is "open and willing to see how that's going to fit into the bigger piece of how do we solve this."
He said his opposition to a previous assault weapon ban from 1994 to 2004 was based on data showing that it wouldn't prevent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary. And while he still has concerns about how new legislation might be drafted to restrict some guns and not others, he said it's not enough to say "bad people are going to do these things, and no law we pass is going to do anything about it."
He noted that other weapons are already restricted, including sawed-off shotguns, fully automatic weapons, and "howitzers."
Walz was reelected to a fourth term last month with the endorsement of the NRA. But he is not the first NRA-endorsed Democrat to call for new thinking. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a life-long NRA member, said it is time to move beyond the old "rhetoric" about guns.