Harry Reid invokes father’s suicide in discussing gun control

April 9, 2013

As he continues guiding the Senate toward eventual consideration of proposals to curb gun violence, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) invoked his father's suicide Tuesday as he once again pleaded with Republicans not to block legislation under consideration.

During his morning remarks on the Senate floor, Reid recalled receiving a 12-gauge shotgun ordered from a Sears catalog for his 12th birthday and made reference to incidents of gun violence in his home state of Nevada, including the 2010 shooting at a Las Vegas federal building.

He also noted that as a young state legislator, he sponsored a bill requiring a three-day waiting period before residents could purchase a handgun. The measure passed.

"That alone has saved the lives of many people," Reid said. "Sometimes people in a fit of passion will purchase the handgun to do bad things with it ... even as my dad did, kill themselves. Waiting a few days helps."

Reid then briefly paused before once again calling on senators to support expanding the background check program.

Reid's father, who went by the same name, was a miner. He killed himself in 1972 after a battle with depression. Reid didn't speak publicly about the suicide until dramatically recounting the episode during a 1996 congressional hearing on mental illness. Since then, he has spoken about the suicide rarely, most recently during an interview with ABC News in February where he was questioned about his commitment to new gun laws.

"I had guns from the time i was a little boy. ... I'm a police officer, right over here is my badge. ... My dad killed himself, shot himself with a gun, committed suicide, so I know a lot about guns. And I think there are things that we need to do," Reid told ABC.

At least 14 Senate Republicans are threatening to veto Reid's gun legislation, but another Republican, Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.), told CBS Tuesday morning that he won't join the group.

"I think it deserves a vote, up or down," Isakson said.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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