2013-01-17 / News

R.I. congressmen push for gun control

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, along with U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, held a press conference last week calling for action to help reduce gun violence and prevent massacres like the mass shootings in Aurora, Newtown, Oak Creek, Virginia Tech and Tucson.

All four members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation said there is a need for stronger federal gun prevention and mental health laws, including reinstating the ban on military-type assault weapons, limiting access to highcapacity ammunition clips, and closing the federal loophole that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without background checks.

From 1994 to 2004, several types of assault rifles and highcapacity ammunition magazines were banned by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. In March 2004, months before the ban was set to expire, Reed managed floor action during the gun debate and helped lead a bipartisan coalition that voted 52-47 to renew the ban on assault weapons, 53-46 to close the gunshow loophole, and 70-27 to require gun locks.

At the time, Democrats were in the minority in the Senate, but were joined by several Republican senators in voting for the provisions. Despite the fact that then- President George Bush previously claimed he supported these common sense measures, Bush joined the National Rifle Association in successfully killing the amended bill. Since then, there have been repeated attempts to renew the federal ban on assault weapons, but Congress has not been able to pass legislation through both chambers.

“I served in the Army and I’ve used assault weapons,” said Reed. “Let’s be clear: They are designed to rapidly kill. Things like limiting access to military-grade weapons and better background checks will help save lives and make our communities safer.”

Whitehouse is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will take the lead in crafting and approving any gun-control legislation that comes before the Senate. He also worked to strengthen state laws against gun violence during his time as Rhode Island’s attorney general.

“From getting rid of high-capacity ammunition magazines to improving access to mental-health services for troubled individuals, there is obviously more we must do to keep our communities safe from the kind of horror we saw last month in Connecticut,” said Whitehouse.

Cicilline has also been a longtime proponent of gun safety. As mayor of Providence, he established the city’s first task force against guns and was a founding member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national organization. Cicilline was appointed Friday by Chairman Mike Thompson to serve on a congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

“Our country has a serious and growing problem with gun violence that Congress needs to address,” said Cicilline. “According to a recent Harvard University study, children ages 5 to 14 are 13 times more likely to be killed by a gun than children in other countries. All of us have a moral responsibility to do everything we can to prevent gun violence. I am looking forward to serving on this task force and working to enact legislation that will make our communities safer by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the seriously mentally ill.”

Cicilline is the lead sponsor of the act that would keep gun dealers whose licenses are revoked from converting their gun inventory into a personal collection, which can then be sold without conducting background checks. He is also against online ammunition sales.

Thompson was named by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to chair a congressional task force on reducing and preventing gun violence in December 2012. A comprehensive set of policy proposals will be released by the task force in early February.

Over the last two years, there have been a dozen mass shootings throughout the nation. Each year guns kill more than 30,000 Americans.

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