Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee completed a series of meetings to vote on four proposals aimed at reducing gun violence in America. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is a member of the Committee and joined a majority of his colleagues in approving all four measures.
"Our nation has seen too much tragedy through gun violence in recent years, and we must act to make our communities safer," said Whitehouse. "These bills would codify some simple, commonsense principles: that while American citizens do have the right to own a gun, weapons of war with high-capacity ammunition magazines have no place on our streets; that anyone seeking to purchase a gun should have to pass a simple background check to ensure they are not a danger to themselves or their community; and that no one can buy a gun for someone who wouldn't be allowed to buy one for themselves. I believe these measures will help prevent future tragedies, and I hope the full Senate will act soon to pass them."
The bills approved by the Committee would re-instate a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, improve the nation's background check system for gun purchases, and more. Here is the full list of bills:
Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. This bill would re-instate a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines (those with more than 10 rounds). The Committee approved this legislation by a vote of 10-8.
Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013. This bill would strengthen penalties for so-called "straw purchases" -- when one person buys a firearm for someone else who cannot legally buy one for himself. The Committee approved this bill by a vote of 11-7.
Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013. This bill would strengthen the country's background check system for gun purchases by eliminating loopholes, such as the current policy that allows individuals to purchase weapons at gun shows without a background check. It would also assist states and federal agencies to provide accurate and up-to-date records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Committee approved this legislation by a vote of 10-8.
School and Campus Safety Enhancements Act of 2013. This bill would expand grant programs to help improve school and campus safety. This bill was approved by a vote of 14 to 4.
All of these bills are now awaiting action by the full U.S. Senate. Toward the end of today's meeting, Senator Whitehouse also expressed hope that the Senate would hold a separate vote on a narrower proposal to eliminate high-capacity magazines, in the event that the broader assault weapons ban legislation fails to get enough votes to pass. He said, "We have heard testimony in this Committee -- very specific testimony -- about lives that would have been saved if there had not been those high capacity magazines I hope that we can at least agree to get that passed."