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On Gun Control, Jerry Nadler Explains What Congress Could Do Right Now

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Michael McAuliff

WASHINGTON -- Along with the soul-searching and calls for the country to stand with the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, there's more lawmakers could do: There are at least 10 laws sitting in Congress designed to make it harder for anyone to inflict such suffering again.

And while a number of legislators -- and President Barack Obama -- declared Friday that it is time to take "meaningful action" after the seventh mass shooting of the year, there's not much evidence Congress will move.

Still, some members are hoping the tragedy in Connecticut will finally spur lawmakers to act.

"It will only be if we make it so; otherwise, it will only be another step in desensitizing all of us," said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), adding that perhaps the depth of the killings' depravity would prompt his colleagues to challenge the gun lobby in a way they did not even after one of their own members, Rep. Gabbie Giffords (D-Ariz.), was shot in the head.

"Hopefully, they will come from growing horror and realization by people -- I mean, this was an attack on a kindergarten," said Nadler. " I hope people realize this could have been their children, it could be any of our children."

The congressman, long a proponent of gun control, laid out the toll of gun-related homicide in stark terms.

"We lose 9,000 people a year, roughly, to gun violence in this country," Nadler said. "We're at war, and we haven't recognized that. We have to go to war against the people who enable the gun violence, the people who stop us from keeping guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people, of felons, and that means the NRA leadership."

He argued that most Americans -- indeed many NRA members -- favor sensible gun controls, but the leaders of the organization are able to get enough "people in enough [congressional districts] to think that this is going to take guns away" to block legislation.

It's not clear that new laws would have stopped the Connecticut horror, in which the gunman reportedly used legally purchased guns that he took from his mother.

Nadler pointed to a school attack in another country on Friday that ended very differently, contrasting the U.S. with China, where guns are not as easily accessed.

"It was today in China, an attack on a school, just like here," Nadler said, citing a BBC News article. "The only difference was the assaulter used a knife instead of a gun. So there were two seriously injured children and 20 with less serious injuries, instead of 20 dead children."

Nadler said he would start by closing the so-called gun show loophole that allows people to buy weapons there without background checks -- unlike in gun shops -- and by banning high-capacity magazines, whose only purpose he argued is killing more people.

He was not sure what other gun control advocates would want to pursue first, but he noted that in the event the Republican leadership was interested in acting, it could do so almost immediately with existing bills.

Democrats also could file what's known as a petition to discharge a number of bills, and the House would have to vote on any that a majority of members had signed. There is not enough time left in 2012 for such a petition effort, but it could be started early in the new year.

Ultimately, Nadler said, it is up to leaders to convince the nation it is time to change the laws, and he said that starts with Obama.

"The president said he was going to take 'meaningful action' and I assume that he means he's going to take leadership in attempting to get some reasonable gun control legislation," Nadler said. "The president has the bully pulpit."

Here are the 10 laws Congress could pursue immediately:

Keep Kids Safe Act of 2011

Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act

Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2011

Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011

Preventing Gun Violence Act

Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act of 2011

Guns-Free National Parks Act of 2012

Straw Purchaser Penalty Enhancement Act

Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012

Securing Citizens' Protection at Federal Events Act

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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