INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - U.S. Sen. Dan Coats said Wednesday that he will oppose President Barack Obama's call for an assault weapons ban, but Indiana gun rights activists said they are taking his stand with a grain of salt because he voted for the original ban in the 1990s.
Coats expressed his opposition shortly after Obama unveiled a raft of proposals for curbing gun violence, including universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
"I will not support legislation or executive actions that would affect gun ownership rights for law-abiding citizens, including any assault weapons ban," Coats said in a statement. "Laws alone cannot eliminate all acts of violence. As Americans we need to examine a culture that increasingly glamorizes violence and determine how we can better identify and address mental illness in our society."
When Coats ran for the Senate in 2010, some gun rights proponents took the Republican to task over his votes in favor of the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban in the 1990s.
Lafayette attorney and shooting enthusiast Kirk Freeman, who serves on the board of the Indiana State Rifle and Pistol Association, questioned Coats' gun rights position at a GOP event in 2010.
Freeman said Wednesday that he welcomed Coats' change of heart if it turns out to be sincere, but added, "I think the gun culture will be skeptical."
Guy Relford, a Carmel attorney who has litigated cases involving gun rights, said Coats' statement was encouraging and seemed to reflect a consensus in Congress that legislation wasn't the cure for gun violence.
"I don't see any reason not to take his comment as sincere," Relford said.
But he said most gun rights proponents would likely want proof.
"I think it's gonna be 'Show me,'" he said. "To say what you do or do not support is one thing. And to see the voting record ... will be where the rubber hits the road."
A spokeswoman for Coats didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
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