Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the congressional committee holding a hearing on gun violence Wednesday, makes clear in his opening remarks that Congress will not infringe on Second Amendment rights, and calls on his colleagues to quickly confirm a new director of the ATF.
In his remarks, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman asks senators and witnesses invited to the hearing to "forego sloganeering, demagoguery and partisan recriminations" adding that the issue of gun violence "is too important for all that."
The Vermont Democrat, who is blind in one eye but used his ailment to become an expert marksman in college, plans to call for broader background checks for gun purchasers, noting that lawful gun store owners must adhere to restrictions not required of private gun sellers.
"I know gun store owners in Vermont. They follow the law and conduct background checks to block the conveyance of guns to those who should not have them," Leahy says, according to his prepared remarks. "They wonder why others who sell guns do not have to follow these same protective rules. I agree with these responsible business owners. If we can all agree that criminals and those adjudicated as mentally ill should not buy firearms, why should we not try to plug the loopholes in the law that allow them to buy guns without background checks? It is a simple matter of common sense.
"And if we agree that the background check system is worthwhile, should we not try to improve its content and use so it can be more effective? What responsible gun owner objects to improving the background check system?" Leahy says in the remarks.
Leahy has a "C" rating from the National Rifle Association, but maintains a respectful relationship with the group. In his remarks, he seeks to allay the concerns of gun owners fearful that new gun control measures might impede on their Second Amendment rights. He notes that two recent Supreme Court cases have reaffirmed the rights of gun owners: "Americans have the right to self-defense and to have guns in their homes to protect their families. No one can or will take those rights or our guns away. Second Amendment rights are the foundation on which our discussion rests. They are not at risk."
Leahy's testimony also includes a plea that his colleagues join him in promptly confirming President Obama's choice to lead the ATF, Acting Director B. Todd Jones.
Leahy's prepared remarks were published Wednesday in Vermon'ts Rutland Herald, and sent to reporters by committee staffers in advance of the hearing.