WASHINGTON -- Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the few members of Congress willing to publicly discuss the politically unpopular issue of gun control, has done so again in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shootings.
Congress convened Monday for the first time since the shootings in the Denver suburb, with the Senate holding a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, read aloud the names of the 12 people, including a 6-year-old girl, who were killed.
“What do we do besides weep with these people?” Lautenberg said Monday on the Senate floor. “What do we want to do to prevent it in the future? That’s going to be the test.”
After the deadly 2011 shootings in Tucson, Lautenberg introduced legislation to limit the amount of ammunition that could be fired by capping high-capacity magazines at 10 bullets. That shooting left six dead and 13 injured after a gunman opened fire as then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) met with constituents outside a grocery store.
The bill remains pending before Congress, and the powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Assn., has had notable legislative success in fighting new controls on 2nd Amendment rights.
“Our duty in this body is not just to mourn and offer our condolences,” the 88-year-old senator said. “The best way to prove our sadness, the best way to prove we really care is to take action to protect young, innocent lives, and on that score we don’t rank very high.”
Lautenberg on Monday called the nation’s gun laws “outdated,” and said the Colorado shootings leave the question of what more should be done. He pledged to look for “common sense measures” in coming days that could be considered by Congress.
The senator, though, is unlikely to receive much support from in Congress, as Republicans have largely taken positions defending 2nd Amendment rights and Democratic leaders have helped lead passage of legislation in recent years to allow guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the No. 3 Republican in the House, warned Monday against a rush to judgment on gun legislation until more information is available from Colorado.
“I think we should get all the facts before we do anything,” he said.