After the terrible mass shootings in a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14, some of our elected leaders have said that we need to take another look at regulations on firearms, along with other issues such as mental health care and violent video games.
President Obama outlined some of the measures that might be taken to reduce the unacceptable level of gun violence in this country, measures that he said a majority of Americans support – banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and requiring background checks before all gun purchases.
I have stated my feelings on this subject before, in a column written on the anniversary of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. All of the above measures strike me as being reasonable regulations that are consistent with Americans’ Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
So where do our members of Congress stand on this issue?
Senator Mark Warner
Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who has long championed the rghts of gun owners, was one of the first elected officials to speak out about the need for more regulation.
In a Dec. 17 interview, Warner said, “Enough is enough…I, like I think most of us, realize that there are ways to get to rational gun control. There are ways to grapple with the obvious challenges of mental illness. And the idea that we can just kind of ignore this issue…I join with the President and, I think, reasonable folks in both parties and…the overwhelming majority of Americans who are gun owners, who believe that we’ve got to put stricter rules on the books.”
“It is time for this kind of senseless violence to end,” Warner said. “There won’t be one perfect law that’s going to stop a crazy person from doing evil things, but when we have close to 30,000 killings a year from all types of gun violence, even if we save a few lives, we make progress.”
Three days later, Warner said in an NPR interview: “It appears to me that as technology has moved forward and firearms have become more effective, mostly for our troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly with these high capacity magazines, that as these weapons that were built for the battlefield are slightly modified and then sold to the public, that we need to take a look at that. I don’t think changing gun laws alone is going to completely solve the problem. Clearly, we have to take a fresh look at issues around mental illness. But the idea that we can simply say, okay, status quo, just doesn’t feel right in my gut. You know, enough is enough.”
“Are there ways that we should look at these high capacity magazines so that, particularly people that are not militarily trained, can’t get off so many rounds so quickly, yeah that seems to me to be a place that responsible people can look for part of a solution,” Warner said. “You know, the one thing I do know is the status quo is not acceptable.”
Senator-Elect Tim Kaine
I was unable to find a recent statement on gun regulations from Senator-Elect Tim Kaine. But last year, shortly after the shootings in Tucson that killed six people and severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Kaine said that he supported measures to restrict the number of bullets that can be fired from a single magazine.
Kaine said that he supported proposed legislation that would limit high-capacity clips to no more than ten bullets, "back from the days when there was an assault weapons ban, before it expired.”
“I have long been a supporter of what I think are reasonable regulations, the kind contemplated, frankly, by the Second Amendment, and I think those and others would be reasonable. In Virginia we worked in the aftermath of Virginia Tech to do some important things here and nationally on the databases of folks who have been adjudicated mentally ill and dangerous so that they couldn't purchase guns.”
Congressman Frank Wolf
In a statement issued on Dec. 17, Congressman Frank Wolf mostly avoided the subject of regulations on assault weapons and other firearms.
“The causes of these attacks are complex and offer no single solution,” he said.
Wolf said that he supports a proposal to create a national commission on mass violence, and that he has “long-advocated for measures that prevent health insurers from placing discriminatory restrictions on mental health and addiction treatments, and remain hopeful that the nearly 20 million Americans who suffer from mental illness receive the treatment they require.”
Wolf said that he has supported increased funding for the national background check system to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and violent criminals, and that he has “repeatedly cosponsored legislation protecting children from violent and sexually explicit video games and Hollywood films.”
“We must examine every possible option and do everything in our power to protect our citizens from heinous crimes like these,” Wolf concluded.
Wolf’s statement lacks specifics on what changes in gun regulations he would be willing to support, or even to consider. This is disappointing, although I see a glimmer of hope in his statement that we need to examine every possible option.
Over the years, Wolf has at times demonstrated an independent streak. He courageously stood up to Grover Norquist and the “no tax pledge” when few Republicans were doing so. I hope he will similarly stand up to NRA and Republican Party orthodoxy and support reasonable regulations on weapons whose sole purpose is to kill lots of people in a short amount of time.