House Democrats are considering a series of gun control bills in response to the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the shootings and brought witnesses—from parents to students to experts—to give testimony. The House Oversight Committee chair is Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y.
Maloney said that Congress will consider “commonsense legislation,” including legislation “to ban assault weapons and bolster background checks on gun purchases, while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
Recently elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams spoke at the hearing and gave his support for more extensive federal gun control.
“It is high noon in America,” Adams said. “The clock is ticking, every day, every minute towards another hour of death.”
Adams told the House committee that gun violence is the deadliest thing young people face in America today.
“We are facing a crisis that is killing more Americans than war. A crisis that is now the No. 1 cause of death for our young people. A crisis that is flooding our cities with illegal guns faster than we can take them off the street,” he said.
Adams then said that “commonsense gun reform” must become the law in America.
In particular, Adams said he supports the gun control legislation currently being considered in Congress, H.R. 7910 and H.R. 8.
H.R. 7910 would, among other things, prohibit 18- to 20-year-olds from purchasing semi-automatic rifles and ban standard capacity magazines with a capacity over 10 rounds.
H.R. 8 would add additional background checks for the purchase of firearms.
“These are bipartisan gun safety bills that will make our cities and our people safer. I stand with President Joe Biden calling on Congress to act now to regulate or ban assault weapons in this country,” Adams told the House panel.
Amy Swearer, a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, testified before the committee and pushed back on the need for more gun control. She said that most of the gun control proposals had little evidence of being effective and that opponents of these laws had been unjustly maligned. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“Should anyone dare question the constitutionality, practicality, or effectiveness of these policies, their opposition is immediately framed as callous obstructionism and their legitimate concerns are brushed aside,” Swearer said.
She laid out what she said were the problems with gun control measures.
“Semi-automatic rifles are the firearm least often used to commit gun violence,” Swearer said. “Pistol grips and barrel shrouds don’t make them any more or less deadly, while these features can and do make a difference in the context of lawful self-defense, which is why millions of peaceable Americans own them.”
She said that the few rigorous studies on magazine size and the link to gun violence has been “inconclusive” at best.
“The context in which mass shootings occur renders magazine limits effectively useless at saving lives,” Swearer said.
Swearer also addressed the calls to raise the age of legal gun ownership. She said that 18- to 21-year-olds are “legal adults endowed with all the rights and duties of citizenship, including the right to keep and bear arms.”
Even if it were “constitutionally appropriate” to limit the rights of these citizens because of the actions of a few, Swearer said, “the vast majority of mass public shooters are 21 or older.”
Swearer offered alternative solutions to prevent gun violence.
She said that the first step is to take violent crime seriously under existing federal law. Then she suggested shifting the over $100 billion in unused COVID-19 emergency funds to physical security, the hiring of armed and trained staff, and the hiring of mental health professionals at schools.
“Promote responsible gun ownership without simultaneously imposing financial burdens on gun owners or hindering their ability to immediately respond to violent threats,” Swearer suggested. “Invest in the nation’s mental health infrastructure, combat the two-thirds of gun deaths that are suicides, and the list goes on.”
In addition, Swearer said that universal background checks would not be a solution for gun violence.
“The policy of universal background checks would not have stopped the shooter at Uvalde from acquiring his weapon, it would not have stopped the shooter in Parkland from acquiring his weapon,” she said. “It would not have stopped, with perhaps one lone exception, a single mass public shooter in the last 20 years because they all either passed or were capable of passing background checks.”
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