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Steinhauer reports: "The greatest area of disagreement centered around the availability of so-called assault weapons, which some Democratic senators seek to ban, and restrictions of large-size magazines, which several Republican senators and their witnesses argued would endanger potential victims of crime and infringe on the rights of law-abiding Americans."

Sen. Lyndsey Graham argued that 6 rounds is not enough. (photo: CBS News)
Sen. Lyndsey Graham argued that 6 rounds is not enough. (photo: CBS News)



Senate Hearing on Guns Suggests an Uphill Fight on New Limits

By Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times

31 January 13

 

 

he universe of potential changes to federal gun laws seemed to shrink Wednesday during an occasionally tense Senate hearing on gun violence as lawmakers and proponents of more gun rules tussled with gun rights advocates over the availability of some types of weapons and ammunition. In the end, chances for a ban on assault weapons dimmed, and compromise seemed elusive.

The hearing, the first held by the Senate Judiciary Committee since the mass shooting last month at a Newtown, Conn., school, began on a poignant note as former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically injured in a 2011 shooting, addressed the committee slowly but with passion, essentially begging panel members to come up with legislation to address gun violence.

"Too many children are dying," she said to a packed, hushed hearing room. "Too many children."

After Ms. Giffords's brief testimony, the four-hour hearing quickly devolved into a litany of competing statistics and chilling anecdotes, laying bare the deep national divide between those who believe gun availability contributes to the nation's most violent crimes and those who think it helps prevent them.

Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, spoke ruefully of the many years he has spent trotting to Capitol Hill to testify about gun violence, and grew irritated under the questions of friend (Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a vocal supporter of gun rights) and foe (Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, where an honor student in Chicago was fatally shot hours before the hearing).

Mr. LaPierre said he did not support the measure that appeared to be gaining the most support among both parties - enhanced background checks for gun buyers - raising the prospect that perhaps even modest changes to gun laws would be hard to accomplish. "Universal background check, which sounds, whatever," he said, "ends up being a universal federal nightmare imposed upon law-abiding people all over this country.

Mr. LaPierre's strong defense of existing gun laws, which he argued were poorly enforced, and his occasional pique were a contrast with Ms. Giffords's husband, Mark Kelly, a gun-owning former Navy captain and a retired astronaut, who quietly pulled, bit by bit, at the arguments against stronger background checks, which he and Ms. Giffords seek.

"I've been shot at dozens of times," Mr. Kelly said. "I would suspect that not many members of this panel, or even in this room, for that matter, have been in any kind of a firefight. It is - it is chaos. I think there are really some very effective things we can do. And one is, Senator, the background check. Let's make it difficult for the criminals, the terrorists, and the mentally ill to get a gun."

The greatest area of disagreement centered around the availability of so-called assault weapons, which some Democratic senators seek to ban, and restrictions of large-size magazines, which several Republican senators and their witnesses argued would endanger potential victims of crime and infringe on the rights of law-abiding Americans.

Ms. Giffords, who made her way through the hearing room slowly, passing by several senators to bid them hello and give them a kiss, sat next to her husband and slowly began her remarks.

"This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities," Ms. Giffords said. "For Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem," she continued. "We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now," she said, emphasizing the last word. "You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."

With that, Ms. Giffords made her way quietly out of the room.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the committee, began by noting that "the Second Amendment is secure and will remain secure and protected," adding, "Americans have the right to self-defense and to have guns in their homes to protect their families."

Mr. Leahy, who has a record of supporting measures like an assault weapons ban but also of defending the rights of gun owners in his largely rural state, said: "No one can or will take those rights or our guns away," and added: "But lives are at risk when responsible people fail to stand up for laws that will keep guns out of the hands of those who will use them to commit mass murder. I ask that we focus our discussion on additional statutory measures to better protect our children and all Americans."

Mr. Leahy promoted his own bill that would give law enforcement officials more tools to investigate so-called straw purchasing of guns, in which people buy firearms for others. But he did not push for a ban on assault weapons, and except for Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who has her own bill in which a ban renewal is central, most people's comments focused on background checks and mental health provisions to prevent the wrong people from obtaining guns.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, set the tone for gun-rights advocates by noting that while the tragedy of Newtown has shocked and rattled the nation, the events should not "be used to put forward every gun-control measure that has been floating around for years."

The hearing took some turns into gender and class politics, as Mr. LaPierre suggested that armed security details were the purview of the wealthy and the well connected, leaving regular Americans in peril.

"If you're in the elite, you get bodyguards," he said, adding, "Criminals don't obey the law anyway." He also said that to the hard-working American "we're going to say you can have a bolt-action rifle, but you can't have an AR-15."

While advocates of more gun control tugged at emotions with anecdotes of random gun violence, one witness, Gayle Trotter, a senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women's Forum, argued for female gun ownership, citing the case of women protecting their children against an intruder. "An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon," she said

 

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-12 # DaveM 2013-01-31 09:01
The United States currently has a record prison population. By some estimates, 60% of those now incarcerated are serving sentences imposed for non-violent drug-related offenses. In some cases, they are serving longer sentences than rapists and murderers.

The violent crime rate in this country is steadily dropping. Perhaps if greater effort were put into incarcerating violent offenders, it would drop even more so. Instead, we see here the beginnings of an effort to create more criminals, by outlawing the possession of yet another object.

We can expect an increase in reported crime should the measures proposed by the President become law. They will come in the form of police raids on suspected "gun criminals" who may or may not have refused to surrender their property to Federal authorities (and believe me, when police kick a door in, someone is going to jail, whether there is anything illicit on the premises or not). They will also come in the form of police shootings of ordinary Americans who, faced with jackbooted thugs in their homes, will stand with gun in hand against those who are no longer protectors, but oppressors.

The media will call them criminals. The next generation will call them heroes.
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-01-31 09:49
Quoting DaveM:
The United States currently has a record prison population. By some estimates, 60% of those now incarcerated are serving sentences imposed for non-violent drug-related offenses. In some cases, they are serving longer sentences than rapists and murderers.

The violent crime rate in this country is steadily dropping. Perhaps if greater effort were put into incarcerating violent offenders, it would drop even more so. Instead, we see here the beginnings of an effort to create more criminals, by outlawing the possession of yet another object.

We can expect an increase in reported crime should the measures proposed by the President become law. They will come in the form of police raids on suspected "gun criminals" who may or may not have refused to surrender their property to Federal authorities (and believe me, when police kick a door in, someone is going to jail, whether there is anything illicit on the premises or not). They will also come in the form of police shootings of ordinary Americans who, faced with jackbooted thugs in their homes, will stand with gun in hand against those who are no longer protectors, but oppressors.

The media will call them criminals. The next generation will call them heroes.

Please provide backup for your contentions in paragraph 2.
 
 
+4 # Citizen Mike 2013-01-31 09:50
Time to repeal the obsolete Second Amendment! To do this would require a public vote on the issue. Someone in Congress should propose this new amendment cancelling out the old one, same as we did to repeal Prohibition. There should be no general right for any citizen to be armed!

Some statute law could then be passed on the federal level allowing citizens to have hunting weapons such as bolt-action or lever-action rifles, and to keep pistols only if they are .32 caliber or less. Nobody needs a military grade weapon for hunting and for personal defense a .32 is adequate.
 
 
+4 # Majikman 2013-01-31 10:48
I'd settle for the 2nd amendment being enforced...as in WELL REGULATED.
 
 
+6 # tedrey 2013-01-31 12:02
Keeping a gun at home may be protection; but carrying a gun into other people's stores, public places and homes, when they don't want it there, is invasion.

Moreover, Wayne LaPierre shows every sign of being a clinical sociopath, whom I wouldn't want within a mile of my children, gun or not.
 
 
+1 # Art947 2013-01-31 17:58
I find the hypocrisy of these "absolutist" supporters of a 2nd amendment right unbelievable. These same individuals, who are saying that they need protection from a Federal government that is "planning to take their guns away," are also supporting increases in the military budget to purchase more and more powerful weapons! Which of these 2 diametrically opposed positions will they continue to champion!

LaPierre has certainly lost his credibility when at one point he pushes for greater background checking (1999) and when it is finally under real consideration, he is opposed to 100% background checking!

It is interesting that this reporter neglects to mention the fantasy world that was described by one of the witnesses called to testify. This right-wing ----- providing fictional scenarios of women using assault-style weapons to protect themselves and their crying children. Why was Gayle Trotter even permitted to be a witness at this hearing.

And why were the comments of the Baltimore Police Chief hidden from the reading public?

I am sorry, NYT, you have failed once again to provide a full measure on this issue.
 
 
-1 # CAMUS1111 2013-01-31 19:20
GOP= Sieg Heil
 

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