WASHINGTON – Democrats in Congress say they want to see federal action in response to the recent shooting deaths in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that resulted in more than 30 people being killed and dozens more being injured. Although lawmakers are currently on summer break, a group of Democrats in the House Judiciary committee want to return to Washington early in order to consider new “red flag” legislation that would help states keep guns away from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, and ban both assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
But getting Republicans on board with the second part of that effort may be a tough sell. Many GOP lawmakers have aligned themselves as strong advocates and defenders of the Second Amendment, which means they are unwilling to take action on any legislation that would further limit a citizen’s ability to own various types of firearms, including the AR-15, which has frequently turned up as the gun of choice for several high-profile mass shooting incidents in recent years.
Chautauqua County’s representative in Washington is one of those Republican lawmakers taking a stand against gun regulation. During his Aug. 14 conference call with regional media, Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) again reiterated his support for the Second Amendment, saying he is unwilling to vote in favor of any measure that would impact the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
“I’m a firm believer in our second amendment rights. I want to make it clear – I recognize that our second amendment is a constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental freedom. That commitment is something I hold dear and something I take into consideration when we have this conversation about getting to gun violence in our society,” Reed said.
Since joining Congress in 2010, Reed has not wavered in voicing his opposition over the banning of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15. But the recent incident in Dayton, Ohio not only put the focus back on assault weapons, but also the high-capacity magazine that was used by the shooter, which held over 100 bullets, allowing him to fire over 40 rounds at a crowd of people in just 30 seconds. Some lawmakers are now saying congress should at least work to make large-capacity magazines like the one used in Dayton illegal. However, Reed said that’s also something he would not support.
“I think those are solutions focused on the ‘what’… on the object. I understand those are the easier solutions to try and advocate for as an elected official because those objects don’t talk back. But at the end of the day, these types of restrictions that are being proposed on assault weapons, magazines, and other item for me infringe upon our second amendment rights. The focus should be where can we find the common ground to deal with this issue,” Reed explained.
Like others in the GOP, Reed’s solution to preventing more mass shootings in the future is to go after those who could possibly do harm, rather than the weapons they choose to use. That involves legislation that makes it easier to identify individuals with mental health issues who could pose a threat and then restricting their access to guns.
“I’m open to exploring and willing to have the conversation in regards to how can we address this issue of gun violence by getting to those that are behind the weapon, behind the gun, and making sure that there are checks in place to make sure they don’t have access to a second amendment right because they lost that by either being convicted or through a due process review showing them to be a psychopathic, violent type of individual who should not have access to a weapon,” Reed said.
President Donald Trump has also responded to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings by insisting that “mental illness pulls the trigger, not the gun.” But shortly after taking office he quietly rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to buy guns.