A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the White House-backed assault weapons ban grew heated Wednesday when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was challenged by Milwaukee police Chief Edward Flynn.
Flynn, who was testifying at the hearing, interrupted Graham in the middle of the senator's comments regarding the inefficacy of background checks.
Recent data shows the majority of people who lie on background check forms are never prosecuted, The New York Times notes. Flynn argued, however, that law enforcement was in fact working hard to prevent illegal purchases.
"When almost 80,000 people fail a background check and 44 people are prosecuted, what kind of deterrent is that? I mean, the law obviously is not seeing that as important," Graham began. "... We absolutely do nothing to enforce the laws on the books."
Flynn then cut in, saying, "Just for the record, from my point of view, senator, the point of a background check…"
"How many cases have you made? How many cases have you made?" Graham insisted, staring at Flynn.
"It doesn’t matter, it’s a paper thing," Flynn interjected again. "I want to stop 76,000 people from buying guns illegally. That’s what a background check does. If you think we’re going to do paperwork prosecutions, you’re wrong."
"We don’t make those cases. We have priorities," Flynn continued. "We make gun cases. We make 2,000 gun cases a year, senator, that’s our priority. We’re not in a paper chase. We’re trying to prevent the wrong people from buying guns. That’s why we do background checks. If you think I’m going to do a paper chase, then you think I’m going to misuse my resources."
At one point, the exchange, which prompted a plea for "civility" from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), lead to loud applause from those in attendance.
ThinkProgress notes that it is very difficult for prosecutors to prove a person knowingly lied during a background check and that working to prosecute many who fail background checks is "often seen as a poor use of resources."
The clash between Graham and Flynn was one of several emotional moments during the committee hearing, NBC News reports. The hearing also included the tearful testimony of the father of a 6-year-old victim of the Sandy Hook shooting.