On Tuesday, Vice President Joseph Biden is expected to present President Barack Obama with recommendations to curb gun violence in the nation, and two Connecticut Senators are asking for some specific restrictions in hopes of preventing another school shooting like the one in Newtown last month.
In a letter to Biden, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Christopher Murphy urged measures to expand existing assault weapons bans, improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, institute universal background checks for gun and ammunition purchases, strengthen the nation’s mental health systems, encourage manufacturing of safer guns and improve federal tracking of guns.
They said their requests are based on conversations with Connecticut’s law enforcement community, educators, mental health experts, community leaders and the parents of the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 first graders and six educators, then killed himself, according to police.
“The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut reminded Americans of the horror that is possible when one deranged person can gain access to dangerous weapons,” the senators stated. “The weeks after this horrific mass shooting have been filled with grief and pain, as we have seen firsthand, but the strength and courage of the families and the community should inspire us to prevent gun violence in the future. While we may never be able to prevent all mass shootings, we can certainly take reasonable steps to reduce the number of incidents and the potential fatalities.”
The letter comes the day after the National Rifle Association met with Biden.
David Keene, head of the NRA, was on the “Today” Show on Friday morning and suggested that his group has enough support in Congress to fend off legislation to ban sales of assault weapons.
He said doesn't think such a ban is going to get the votes it would need. He also said there's a fundamental disagreement over what would actually make a difference in curbing gun violence.
In their letter, Blumenthal and Murphy recommend:
Expand the assault weapons ban to include a ban on high-capacity magazines.
They wrote that the U.S. Department of Justice found the previous assault weapons ban was responsible for a 7-percent decline in total gun murders, but since that ban lapsed in 2004, assault weapons have been used in nearly 500 incidents, causing nearly 400 deaths.
Improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check system
Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that lax reporting by state agencies resulted in millions of missing records that would have identified seriously mentally ill individuals and drug abusers as prohibited purchasers in the federal background check database, according to the Senators.
Strengthen the mental health system
The senators stated that the states have cut more than $4 billion in public mental health spending between 2009 and 2012, and 3,000 psychiatric beds were lost over that same period.
Require background checks for sales of ammunition
“By requiring background checks on sales of ammunition, we can put one strong additional obstacle between a potential mass murderer and the tools to destroy lives and devastate communities,” the senators state.
Develop rules to encourage firearm manufacturers to create safer guns
“In other areas, consumer regulation ensures that companies move gradually towards safer products. Unfortunately, gun manufacturers have been largely immune from such regulation. As a result, when it comes to developments in gun safety, time has largely stood still,” the letter states.
Federal tracking of guns
The senators said the Department of Justice must destroy records of gun purchases within 24 hours.
“Surely with all of the technology and expertise in the hands of the Justice Department we can find a way to keep track of gun purchases in a way that protects the privacy of law-abiding gun owners while giving law enforcement valuable information to stop the next Adam Lanza before he is allowed to kill,” the letter states.
Senators Blumenthal and Murphy will hold a public discussion on gun violence at 1 p.m. on Friday at the Parker Memorial Community Center at 2621 Main St. in Hartford.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a ranking member of the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee, issue a joint statement with other leading Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee asking Biden to include a proposal promoting increased research on firearms by the Health and Human Services Department.
“Current law has a chilling effect on the CDC Center for Injury Prevention and Control which compiles and analyzes data in order to help protect people from deaths and injuries both accidental and intentional,” DeLauro (D-CT), Full Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) said in a joint statement. “The Center, which examines issues such as motor vehicle accidents, prescription drug overdoses and child abuse that leads to initiatives aimed at preventing related deaths and injuries effectively cannot do similar work when it comes to gun-related violence because of this prohibition. As a result, U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic questions about how to prevent firearm injuries.”