Harry Reid calls for expansion of gun background checks in response to Fort Hood shooting

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday that Congress should revisit the issue of expanding the federal gun background check program in response to the shooting at Fort Hood.


Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). (Post)

Reid spoke out in response to questions from reporters about the fatal shooting of three people at Fort Hood, Tex., by a soldier, who then killed himself. Military officials and law enforcement officials have identified the shooter in Wednesday's incident as Army Spec. Ivan Lopez, 34, a military truck driver, and said he had behavioral and mental health issues.

"As I was told today, this young man bought his gun a day or two before he killed these people," Reid told reporters. "Couldn't we at least have background checks so that people who are ill mentally, or who are felons, shouldn't be able to buy guns? Even NRA members, a majority of them, support that so I hope we can bring it back up."

When asked whether he would like to bring up a bill to expand the background check program in response to the shooting, Reid said, "I would like to be able to bring it back up, I need some more votes."

Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the pistol used by Lopez in Wednesday’s shootings was purchased legally last month at the same store, Guns Galore, where Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan bought the weapon he used in a 2009 rampage at the base.

President Obama’s ambitious effort to overhaul the nation’s gun laws in response to a school massacre in Connecticut suffered a resounding defeat almost a year ago this month, when every major proposal he championed fell apart on the Senate floor. It was a swift and stunning collapse for gun-control advocates who had quickly rallied support for new gun laws after the deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown led the Obama and many others to believe that the political climate on guns had been altered in their favor. The centerpiece of the proposed legislation was a carefully-negotiated bipartisan proposal to expand the gun background check system to most gun sales. But the Senate blocked the proposal, defying polls showing that nine in 10 Americans supported the idea of expanding the background check system to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Pressed on whether Congress could take up legislation designed to bolster the nation's mental health services, Reid noted that a bill quickly approved this week by Congress to temporarily address the years-long struggle to re-jigger the formula used to determine Medicare funding levels included more than $1 billion in funding for mental health services.

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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