U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said on Friday that he would rather see Congress arrive at a “sensible solution” on curbing gun violence than see the president issue some kind of executive order attempting to remedy the problem.
Still, in light of the power wielded by the NRA and the gun industry, which many congressmen will not stand up to, Durbin said he would support President Barack Obama if he does issue executive orders in an attempt to rein in gun violence. “Whatever it takes to keep our streets and schools safe, I’ll support,” he said.
“But I hope that we could do it in the the normal congressional process,” he added. “I know that it’s tough. I know the politics on this issue very, very well, and I know some of my colleagues are not prepared to deliver.”
Earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden said the president is considering executive orders in an effort to halt shootings like the one at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., CNN reported earlier last week. The bloody massacre of 20 children and seven adults renewed attention on the gun-control debate. Last month, Obama said a new task force headed by Biden would return by the end of January with some solid recommendations for combating the violence.
While Biden is talking executive orders, Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes a legislative solution is more appropriate and said there are options being floated in Washington that, “from the details I’m hearing, I think I can support.”
Durbin stopped in the Fox Valley on Friday to review Elgin Community College’s efforts to reduce student indebtedness. Also on Friday, he visited Rockford, where he met with law enforcement leaders to discuss the strategies being used there to reduce violent crime and prevent mass shootings in the area. The senator is visiting several communities where he has been hosting “listening sessions” to learn what law enforcement and residents believe needs to be done on the issue.
The ideas he has been gathering from those sessions include:
- Gun control is not enough: Congress must pass legislation to combat mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, but gun-control alone is not the solution. There are a variety of issues that come into play with the kind of violence that occurred at Newtown and at other communities, including mental health issues.
- Tougher state gun laws: There already are stringent federal laws in place related to gun violence, and Durbin said that states likewise need tougher laws. Criminals, he said, generally fear federal prosecution on weapons charges because the penalties are so much more severe than state laws.
In that regard, Durbin said, the people need to begin hearing more from law enforcement and sportsmen — “people who use guns legally and responsibly, they need to speak out,” he said.
Durbin said he would support an assault rifle ban, as well as a ban on the large clips for such weapons. Some clips designed for assault rifles can hold 100 rounds of ammunition. Most sportsmen would agree, he said, that no hunter needs to have an assault rifle with an extended clip.
In addition, he said that on Thursday, a gangbanger in Chicago tried to use an Uzi against a police officer, but the weapon jammed on the first shot. The clip, he said, held 31 more rounds. Those types of weapons and those types of clips do not need to be on the streets, except in the hands of law enforcement or the military.
- Background checks: He said background checks are needed on every gun buyer, yet 40 percent of guns sold in the United States are sold at gun shows where the background checks are not conducted. That’s a significant loophole in a law intended to prevent the sale of firearms to felons. But someone with mental illness also could take advantage of these unregulated sales.
- Crack down on straw purchases: Durbin said straw purchasers legally can buy large numbers of guns but then turn around and sell them individually with no oversight to ward against felons or the mentally ill making purchases. That, Durbin said, should be a serious felony carrying heavy penalties.
- Educating ex-offenders: In terms of recidivism among prison inmates, Durbin said educational opportunities are needed to help ensure they will have a better shot at finding a job when they leave prison, rather than returning to crime when they cannot find work. He said some are illiterate.
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