Capitol Building

Senate Hearing on How to Address Gun Violence

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?”  Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) said that he thinks the hearing will help senators draft a bill that could eventually be voted on by the full Senate.

Among the individuals who are to testify before the committee is former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot in January 2011 during a public event.  Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who is also scheduled to testify, started a political group to “take on the National Rifle Association and push for a new assault weapons ban, universal background checks to close the ‘gun-show loophole,’ and a ban on high-capacity magazines.”

Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association (NRA) will also witness.  He is expected to reiterate the group’s opposition to a new federal ban on so-called assault weapons and federal background checks for most, if not all, firearms buyers.

(Brief aside: remember, the term “assault weapon” is a non-technical term.)

Sen. Leahy is of the opinion that rather than lawmakers putting forth legislation they have drafted in the past, “it might be nice for someone to actually have a hearing and do some legislation.”  In other words, the hearing today will have a lot of weight, at least for those lawmakers who think the way that Sen. Leahy does.

Assuming a bill is not already drafted – which is a lofty assumption – at least Sen. Leahy is alluding to something resembling regular order.  Of course, regular order in pursuit of bad policy is no virtue.

The Heritage Foundation produced a report on this issue in which they advised individuals, families, civil society, and possibly the government to “channel their concerns into effective measures that are consistent with the Constitution.”

Indeed, this issue can be emotionally charged and since every life is valuable, it is an issue of great significance.  That is why “sound policy must be based on a serious study of the data and other evidence.”  Moreover, “policymakers should avoid a rush to judgment on prescriptions that violate first principles, ignore the real root of these complex problems, or disregard careful scientific research.”

Specifically, they state:

First, we must identify the specific problems to be addressed involving school safety, mental illness, the cultural climate, and the misuse of firearms.

Second, we must analyze potential solutions to the specific problems identified, examining the facts and taking into account the costs and benefits of the potential solutions to ensure that sound judgment governs the emotions inescapably attached to the subject.

Finally, Americans must implement appropriate solutions in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution, including the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms, the traditional role of the states in our federal system, and the central significance of family.

Again, all of these factors require careful and cool-headed consideration.  For example, while it may be tempting to restrict gun ownership by some means or another, “gun control laws do not correlate with decreased violence.”  Thus, any laws should be “carefully evaluated in light of historical evidence and with a thorough examination of data about their effectiveness.”

Watch the hearing live at 10:00 AM ET.

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