Response from U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to my email addressing my concerns about gun control and infringements upon 2nd Amendment rights:
February 14, 2013
Dear Mr. Phillips:
Thank you for contacting me about preventing gun violence in the United States. Since the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I have heard from parents, grandparents, veterans, doctors, teachers, hunters, children, and many others – all expressing their belief that our laws relating to gun violence need to be improved, and urging Congress to act. I have also heard from Vermonters, like you, who are concerned that new legislation could interfere with our Second Amendment rights.
I grew up hunting in Vermont and am still an avid target shooter. I value our Second Amendment rights, and the Supreme Court has definitively affirmed an individual’s right to bear arms. But like all of the rights guaranteed by our Constitution, that Second Amendment right is not absolute. I agreed with Justice Scalia when he wrote in the Supreme Court’s District of Columbia v. Heller decision that the Second Amendment does not prohibit reasonable regulations. The factors underlying the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, are complex, and involve a host of issues relating to mental health treatment, firearms policy, and school safety.
One thing that I am especially concerned about is the role that mental health records play in the purchasing of firearms. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is an FBI database that is intended to provide licensed sellers with a quick and easy way to determine if, among other things, a buyer has a history of mental illness. In 2007, I worked with a bipartisan group of senators and representatives to pass the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. I have supported strong funding for this law and will continue to do so and encourage state and local officials to play their important role in making the NICS database as complete as possible.
I believe there are other things that we can do to prevent gun violence, as well. To this end, I chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on January 30th, titled “What Should America Do About Gun Violence?” We heard from experts on both sides of the issue, who expressed a wide variety of opinions. I invite you to watch a webcast of the hearing, and to read my statement on gun violence, by going to www.judiciary.senate.gov, clicking on “Hearings”, and selecting the January 30th hearing.
I very much hope that the Senate will come together on this important issue and pass legislation to combat gun violence, while still preserving the Second Amendment rights that Vermonters cherish. Thank you for contacting me. Please keep in touch.
United States Senator
March 9, 2013
Good news! After nearly 5,000 responses to my call for comments — including yours — the Leahy-Collins legislation to help stop weapons trafficking passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday and was reported to the full Senate. The committee began work on Senator Feinstein’s bill to regulate assault weapons but was unable to complete action as Republican opponents of the bill filed over a dozen amendments to gut it.
Opponents of Senator Feinstein’s bill have shown they will try to delay the assault weapon ban from coming out of Judiciary by offering amendment after amendment. They actually hope their dilatory tactics will end up defeating the bill in committee. But those tactics will not work in the Committee that I chair if Democrats stay unified behind her bill.
We still have a lot of work to do. I will reconvene the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to work through all the amendments the Republicans have cooked up against the Feinstein bill, Senator Schumer’s bill to improve background checks, and Senators Boxer and Warner’s bill to improve school safety. And we will continue marking up through next week to complete action on these important bills.
Thank you for helping us strive to develop a truly comprehensive solution to help our country stop gun violence and protect our families.