Senate Hearing on Gun Violence: Live Updates
The leader of the NRA and former representative Gabrielle Giffords are in Washington to testify on gun violence.
Chairman Leahy: 'There is more work to be done' 1:55 p.m.
Closing the lengthy congressional hearing on gun violence—the first since the deadly massacre in Newtown, Conn.—Leahy urged those in Congress to “listen to each other. There is more work to be done,” he said.
Senator Blumenthal: ‘I will never forget the sights and sounds of that day.’ 1:37 p.m.
Blumenthal began by bringing up a recent Washington Post piece by Mark and Jackie Barden who lost their 7-year-old son in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14. As a senator in Connecticut, Blumenthal was on the scene following the shootings in Newtown within hours. “I will never forget the sights and sounds of that day,” he said. Blumenthal then read what he called the “Sandy Hook Promise,” which promises to work to prevent gun violence. “My hope is that Newtown will be remembered not just as a place but as a promise.”
LaPierre: ‘At the scene of the crime it's the criminal and the victim ... the victims should have the power to protect themselves.’ 1:12 p.m.
When asked by Senator Hatch what the NRA thinks is the answer to gun violence, LaPierre said simply that they support what works. “We support enforcing the federal gun laws that are on the books.“ LaPierre said that the NRA opposes stricter gun legislation because it will not restrict criminals, but instead will “hit the hardworking Americans.“ He said that tens of thousands of crimes occur each week, and the victims in those situations should have the power to defend themselves. “At the scene of the crime it’s the criminal and the victim, and the victims want to be able to protect themselves.”
Sen. Al Franken: ‘The vast majority of people with mental illness aren’t violent.’' 1:05 p.m.
Senator Franken began his speech by clearing up what he called the “stigma” now attached to mental illness. “The vast majority of people with mental illness aren’t violent, and in fact are more likely to be victims of violence,” he said.
Sen. Ted Cruz: ‘People get confused with the words “assault weapons.”’ 12:58 p.m.
Using oversized images of guns and other props (in place of the actual guns he asked to bring in), Senator Cruz presented his case to the panel. Cruz drew attention to the fact that many people confuse “assault weapons” with machine guns. Cruz closed his argument with a pie graph that shows only 1.9 percent of firearms used in crimes were purchased at gun shows.
Kelly: 'A universal background check is a common sense thing to do' 12:48 p.m.
Speaking to Sen. Lee, Giffords' husband Mark Kelly said that Loughner, if given one, would have failed a background check. "A universal background check is a common sense thing to do," he said.
Chief Johnson: 'We're failing miserably' 12:42 p.m.
After a moving opening, in which Sen. Kloubachar touched on 6-year-old Charlotte Bacon (one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary), she asked Chief Johnson to address the current state of background checks. "We're failing miserably," he said. "40 percent of sales take place at gun shows. Nearly 6.6 million guns are sold through that process."
David Kopel: 'Handguns have common lawful use' 12:35 p.m.
In response to Senator Mike Lee's question asking whether or not guns have a "lawful" use, David Kopel discussed both self-defense and hunting. "The fact that criminals may misuse something does not permit us to prohibit law-abiding citizens from using them. "Handguns have common lawful use, legal magazines have common lawful use as well."
Senator Graham: “I do believe, in the bottom of my heart, that in some circumstances the 15-round magazine makes perfect sense.” 12:20 p.m.
Presenting pictures of guns to the panel (he initially tried to bring actual guns), Senator Lindsey Graham expressed his belief that "more gun laws" are not the answer. Graham made the argument that by preventing all citizens from owning magazines, and certain guns, we will be creating dangerous situations. "A young mother could run out of bullets," he said. "That would be our fault." Graham cited the recent story of a woman in Georgia who saved her two 9-year-old children by shooting an intruder. "One bullet in the hand of a mentally unstable person ... is too many," he said. “Six bullets in the hands of a woman trying to protect her children may not be enough.”
Senator Dick Durbin to LaPierre: 'You missed the point' 12:00pm
Addressing LaPierre and his earlier statements, Senator Durbin claimed that the NRA's Executive Vice President has ignored the main argument surrounding his claim that background checks work, namely that if criminals don't subject themselves to background checks, they won't obtain guns. "You've missed the point completely," Durbin challenged. "Senator, I think you missed the point," LaPierre fired back. Durbin then brought up the story of the 15-year-old girl who performed at the Inauguration, then was shot dead yesterday in Chicago.
Captain Kelly: 'My wife would not be sitting in this seat if we had stronger background checks' 11:52 a.m.
Discussing the shooting that nearly took the life of his wife, former Sen. Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly pointed to gaps in the mental health system. "Jared Loughner bought that gun with the intention of assassinating my wife," he said. "LaPierre tried to make the point that criminals do not subject to background checks," Kelly said, "but the man who shot my wife was a criminal." "My wife would not sitting where she is here today if we had stronger background checks."
Senator Schumer: 'It will not limit your ability to borrow Uncle Willy's hunting rifle.' 11:43 a.m.
Schumer first addressed pro-gun-rights activists argument that the Second Amendment should be left alone. “No amendments is absolute,” he said. Adding that there are “sensible” amendments to both the First and Third Amendments. Schumer then discussed the new background check bill, which he hopes will be unveiled soon. Schumer said he is working with members of the NRA to ensure that it will not hinder law-abiding citizens from getting guns. "It will not limit your ability to borrow Uncle Willy's hunting rifle."
Senator Schumer to Giffords: ‘You’re lighting a candle’ 11:39 a.m.
Schumer began his testimony by thanking Giffords for coming to give testimony given her close relationship to the topic. “Rather than cursing the darkness, you’re lighting a candle,” he said. Schumer said not including guns when discussing mass killings is like not discussing cigarettes when discussing cancer.
Chief Johnson: ‘The best way to stop a bad guy from getting a gun is a good background check.’ 11:28 a.m.
Addressing Chief Johnson, Senator Feinstein asked him to confirm that the gun Adam Lanza used to killed 27 people in Newtown was given to him by his mother. “Mrs. Lanza gave this gun to her son,” she said. "Yes. Safety and security of weapons would have made a difference in that case," he said. Johnson offered what he thinks is a solution: a more sophisticated database to track criminal activity. Chief Johnson said it’s crucial that we upgrade the technology in our database to reflect domestic violence and other incidents “instantly.” It is this, he said, that will prevent the mentally ill from purchasing weapons during an outbreak.
Senator Feinstein to LaPierre: ‘You look pretty good, actually.’ 11:27 a.m.
In an unusually light moment, Senator Feinstein quipped to NRA VP Wayne LaPierre that he “looked pretty good, actually.” The two last “tangled” 18 years ago, according to Feinstein. The senator then turned to Chief Johnson for questions, bypassing LaPierre.
Trotter: 'We are putting women at a serious disadvantage.' 11:23 a.m.
In response to a question on the floor about the right to bear arms, Trotter said she was speaking on behalf of "millions" of women who gain "courage" from the knowledge that they have a weapon. "If we ban these assault weapons, we are putting women at a serious disadvantage."
Senator Leahy to LaPierre: 'That doesn't answer my question.' 11:15 a.m.
In a brief questioning, Senator Leahy asked NRA Executive Vice President LaPierre how we should handle "straw purchases" of guns—which refers to a third party purchasing a gun for someone else. LaPierre, visibly uncomfortable, claimed that 'criminals' don't abide by the law. Leahy then announced "for the record" that LaPierre's comments did not answer his question.
NRA VP Wayne LaPierre: 'Maniacs don't abide by the law.' 11:10 a.m.
LaPierre began a heated argument by reitering the NRA's sympathy towards the victims of the Newtown massacre. The National Rifle Association's vice president then said he must "honestly and respectfully" disagree with stricter gun legislation. LaPierre said that the government's responsibility is to work on keeping guns out of the hands of the insane. "Homicidal maniacs, criminals, and the insane don't abide by the law." Gun owners who use their guns legally should not be punished for owning them, he said. "Proposals that would punish the law-abiding have failed in the past, they will fail again."
Attorney Gayle Trotter: ‘Guns make women safer’ 10:55 a.m.
Trotter, co-founder of Shafer & Trotter PLC, began with a story of a woman who, alone with her baby, called 911 after her home was broken into by “violent intruders.” The woman used a weapon that she had in her home to wound one of the intruders: “It was going to be him, or my son, and wasn’t going to be my son.” Trotter said women are less-likely to be raped and subjected to other types of violence in states where weapons are allowed. “Arm security works, gun bans do not.” Trotter says that for women, the ability to "arm ourselves" is an equalizer. "We protect women by protecting our 2nd Amendment rights."
James Johnson: 'We are long overdue' 10:50 a.m.
James Johnson, the chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence—also the policy chief of Baltimore County, Maryland, was adamant that action be taken immediately. “We are long overdue on strengthening our gun laws” he said. “40 percent of gun transactions occur between private dealers. That’s like allowing 40 percent of passengers to board a plane without going through security.” Johnson focused on the unnecessary use of magazines. “Background checks work,” he said, “they should be implemented immediateySince the assault weapon ban expired, he said he has seen an “explosion of violence.”
Officer Mark Kelly: 'We are all vulnerable' 10:35 a.m.
Following his wife's moving statement, Mark Kelly delivered an eloquent speech imploring that Washington take responsibility for gun violence. "Behind every victim lies a matrix of inadequacies" he said. "As a nation we are not taking responsibility for the gun rights that our founding fathers have conferred upon us." Kelly explained that while he and Gabrielle are both gun owners, they think Congress has a responsibility to reform gun legislation. "When dangerous people get guns, we are all vulnerable." Kelly offered solutions, on behalf of Giffords, including stricter background checks, tougher federal gun trafficking laws, and a “careful” discussion on which weapons should be legal in the U.S. “We believe whether you call yourself pro-gun or anti-gun violence, you can work together to pass laws that save lives."
Giffords: 'We Must Do Something' 10:24 a.m.Still recovering from the horrific shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that ended the lives of six, almost her own, Giffords admitted “speaking is difficult." But as the nation grapples with the issue of gun control, she said her experience was too important not to share. “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying; too many children,” she said. “We must do something. It will be hard. But the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”