Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a new bill on Thursday that would ban federal assault weapons, but Republican lawmakers and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly argue assault weapons aren’t the problem, citing a lack of background checks and not addressing mental health problems as contributing factors to gun violence.
Feinstein admitted on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that passing the bill will be “the hardest of the hard,” but thinks she can still push the legislation because “the American people are very much for it.”
“Do military-style assault weapons belong on the streets of our cities?” Feinstein said. “The answer, according to the United States conference of mayors, according to major chiefs of police, according to the largest police organization in the world, is absolutely no. So, we do have support.”
But while major chiefs of police may support an assault weapons ban, New York police commissioner Ray Kelly says that assault weapons are not the weapon of choice in most crimes in the U.S.
“For us in New York City, and I believe in most urban centers of America, the problem really is concealable handguns,” Kelly said to CBS‘ Bob Schieffer later on “Face the Nation.”
“Only 2 percent of the people that we’ve arrested for guns in the last two years have had assault weapons,” he continued. “We don’t want them on the streets, make no mistake about it, but the problem is the handgun. Sixty percent of the murders in New York City are caused by handguns, and we simply have too many of them.”
Schieffer also brought on the show former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Republican Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn to discuss the proposed assault weapons ban.
Gingrich was quick to criticize the bill calling the term assault weapons “propaganda.”
“Any true military weapon is illegal, has been illegal since 1934,” Gingrich explained. “If somebody’s using an AK-47, they’re using an illegal weapon because it is an automatic weapon. We do not allow people to buy automatic weapons unless they have a very strict collector’s license, and that’s been true now for almost 80 years.”
Gingrich also pointed out that the shooter at Virginia Tech used two pistols, a weapon that would still be legal under Feinstein’s proposed bill.
Blackburn, in agreement with Gingrich, said the assault weapons ban was simply treating the “symptom” instead of the “root cause.”
“You look at the mental health issues,” Blackburn said. “You look at the psychotropic and psychiatric drugs that a lot of the youth are taking that individuals have committed these crimes are taking.”
While Blackburn focused on mental health as the “root problem,” Commissioner Kelly proposed a universal background check as a solution to decreasing gun violence.
But according to Gingrich, background checks are already being enforced and would not have stopped tragedies like the Newtown shooting from happening.
“The guy who killed people tragically in Newtown was using his mother’s guns, so the background check wouldn’t have done any good,” Gingrich argued.
Feinstein and other gun control advocates have used the Newtown shooting as a prime example of why Congress should pass an assault weapons ban.
But Gingrich pointed out,“Gun murders have gone down since the assault weapons ban ended.”