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Senator proposes policy to stop rejected military enlistees from buying guns

Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner failed an Army drug test. Sen. Charles Schumer urges a new policy that he says would have flagged Loughner in the FBI database when he tried to buy a gun.

January 16, 2011|By Matea Gold, Washington Bureau
  • Sen. Charles Schumer said in an interview on Jan. 16, 2011, that he would push to require the military to notify the FBI about incidents in which recruits were found using drugs. The names of would-be enlistees, such as Jared Lee Loughner, would be flagged in the FBI database, he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer said in an interview on Jan. 16, 2011, that he would… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Reporting from Washington — Sen. Charles E. Schumer urged the Obama administration on Sunday to require the military to inform the FBI when a prospective enlistee is rejected for excessive drug use, saying such a policy would have prevented suspected Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner from buying a weapon.

Loughner had attempted to enlist in the Army but was rejected for failing a drug test, according to a report in the Associated Press.

Schumer, a New York Democrat, said such a requirement would ensure that potential recruits found to be using drugs would be flagged in an FBI database — even as he acknowledged that there was little political support for comprehensive gun control efforts.

"Let's be honest here: There haven't been the votes in the Congress for gun control," Schumer said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We're looking for some things where we can maybe find some common ground."

Republicans have resisted calls for gun control since the Arizona shootings that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, saying the incident speaks to the need for better mental health intervention, not further gun control.

"The problem with gun laws is they limit the ability to defend yourself," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said on "Meet the Press." "The people that are going to commit a crime or are going to do something crazy aren't going to pay attention to the laws in the first place. Let's fix the real problem: Here's a mentally deranged person who had access to a gun that should not have had access to a gun."

Republicans are getting little push-back from Democrats, who after championing gun control in the 1980s and 1990s have largely backed away from the issue, wary of losing support among rural voters.

There have been a few gun control proposals since the Tucson shootings.

One by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) would ban the sale and import of high-capacity ammunition magazines like the one authorities say was used in Tucson. Such magazines were prohibited under the 1994 assault-weapons ban, which was enacted during Bill Clinton's presidency and lapsed a decade later.

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell on Sunday urged lawmakers to restore the ban.

"We need a rational discussion on guns, where we put aside the pressure from interest groups and we take a look and say, 'Does any citizen protecting themselves or their home or using a handgun to hunt, do they need a clip that has 33 bullets in it?' " he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And the answer is, 'Of course not.' I think the nation's spirits would be lifted if the Congress acted quickly with the president and reinstated the assault-weapons ban, which also had the ban on these large magazines, these clips that carried 30-plus bullets."

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who was the principal sponsor of the assault-weapons ban, admitted that there was little political will to support a measure that could be seen as curtailing gun rights. "It's a very hard battle now," she said.

matea.gold@latimes.com

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