(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Chuck Schumer was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the assault weapons ban back when it passed the House. The New Yorker helped usher it through Congress and in part built his senate campaign on passing the Brady Bill.
But Tuesday, in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., massacre, Schumer suggested there is no political will for new gun laws or re-instating the assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004. Under the ban it would have been illegal for James Holmes to purchase the deadliest of the weapons he used – the AR-15 assault rifle.
Schumer blamed the NRA and the Republicans who control the House of Representatives for blocking any legislation. But Schumer held a press conference today on tax measures, not gun laws, and he made clear that he thinks the political mandate for gun laws needs to come from the people before politicians will change anything.
“I am still an advocate of the assault weapons ban. I was the author of it in the House,” he said, adding that it could potentially have kept the AR-15 away from Holmes. “But we see what’s in the House and we see the power of the NRA around here and it’s something we ask, the way to overcome it is for citizens, the silent majority, who believe in the right to bear arms, the majority of Americans including myself.”
“I believe in the right to bear arms. I think the 2nd amendment has validity. I thought the Heller decision was appropriate. But there can be reasonable limitations on those rights to bear arms. We limit the 1st amendment, you can’t falsely scream fire in a crowded theater, or anti-pornography laws. The 2nd amendment can have reasonable limits as well,” he said.
House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, resisted calls Tuesday from other congressional Democrats to tighten gun control laws in the wake of the shooting in Aurora last week, couching his lack of enthusiasm for new legislation to President Obama’s decision not to push for new laws either.
“We had a shooting by a deranged person in Colorado and our hearts and souls go out to the victims and those who were killed and those who were injured, and their families,” Boehner said. “The president has made clear that he’s not going to use this horrific event to push for new gun laws. I agree.”
Pressed whether there is anything the government should do to make it harder for someone to purchase such large amounts of ammunition, the speaker stuck to his script.
“Listen, the White House had made clear they’re not going to use this horrific event to push for new legislation,” he repeated. “I agree with them.”
Over the weekend, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One that President Obama believes the government should protect the Second Amendment while also ensuring that weapons do not fall “into the hands of individuals who should not, by existing law, obtain those weapons.”
“The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them under existing law,” Carney said Sunday. “And that’s his focus right now.”
James Holmes, 24, is suspected of killing 12 people and wounding another 58 in Friday morning’s shooting at opening night of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. With no significant police record, law enforcement sources say he acquired all four of his guns, body armor and thousands of rounds of ammunition legally.
House Democrats including Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Carolyn McCarthy of New York, both long-time gun control advocates, point to the shooting in Colorado and other mass shootings as proof that the country’s gun laws are insufficient.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, said that Congress “should get all the facts” before moving any new legislation “because you want to make sure it is done right.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson and MJ Lee, CNN
Tal Kopan and Jeremy Diamond, CNN