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Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 -- Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise this afternoon to speak about the issue before us, gun violence and the Second Amendment to the Constitution. We have all been enormously saddened by the recent senseless acts of violence that have affected our Nation. In Congress, we have all been deeply moved, and we are all motivated by the tragedies.

However, unfortunately, the legislation currently before the Senate would do virtually nothing to address the causes of this violence. This legislation, in my judgment, would take us down what I would regard as a dangerous path. Rather than focusing on the underlying causes of gun violence, this legislation would place onerous restrictions on law-abiding Americans, who have a right and are exercising their Second Amendment rights.

It should trouble us that the first response to recent tragedies is to curtail the Bill of Rights. These rights were so incredibly vital to the birth of this great Nation. The Founders specifically limited the power of the government to restrict these rights. But this legislation, in my judgment, goes beyond and pushes beyond those constitutional limits. The bill before us would have a number of adverse effects.

For example, it would prevent a Nebraskan from using a neighbor's shotgun to go trap shooting on a nearby farm or an uncle from giving a niece a hunting rifle as a birthday gift without receiving FBI approval. As my colleague from Iowa has pointed out, the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice has written that universal background checks can only be enforced if coupled with national gun registration.

This legislation--I agree with the Senator from Texas--would be a first step on the path toward a national gun registry, a far cry from the vision of our Founders, who exercised this very fundamental right to secure our freedom.

The fact is, had this legislation been law, it would not have prevented any of the recent atrocities that have affected families in our Nation.

We will also have the opportunity to vote on a series of amendments. One such amendment we will consider is the so-called assault weapons ban, which would prohibit law-abiding citizens from possessing certain firearms based upon cosmetic characteristics. Once again, this ban would do little to prevent future gun violence.

Furthermore, I find it so incredibly ironic that its proponents think these weapons are a problem in the hands of law-abiding citizens but apparently see no problem with the same weapons being glorified in Hollywood movies and video games. Apparently we should ban these devices in rural Nebraska where we grow up around firearms but allow our children to idolize Hollywood stars committing mass shootings on the big screen and then try it out for yourself in a graphic video game where the game is interactive, violent, and you are literally shooting at people.

At the end of the day, this legislation is so incredibly flawed that no amount of tweaks or changes can ever possibly improve it. That is why I am a cosponsor of the alternative of the Senator from Iowa, a complete substitute which seeks to address the root causes of gun violence and correctly balances the need to secure our Second Amendment rights.

This amendment focuses on adequate enforcement of the gun laws currently on the books, as well as the mental health needs of our country. We owe it to the victims of gun violence to pass legislation that will actually address the causes of these tragedies; otherwise, it will not stop. As Senators who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, we owe to it all Americans to protect this fundamental right, this right contained in the Bill of Rights that is so vital to the very freedom we enjoy.

I yield the floor.


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