WASHINGTON -- The possibility of passing major or even moderately impactful gun control legislation in the wake of the shootings in Tucson, A.Z. is remote, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged on Sunday.
"Look," he told NBC's "Meet the Press," "let's be honest here. There haven't been the votes in the congress for gun control. We have had some victories. ... But make no mistake about it: The changes are hard. Senator [Dianne] Feinstein tried to bring the assault weapons ban back on the floor. It didn't pass. So we are looking for things where we could maybe find some common ground and get things done."
In light of the political math, Schumer said that he and his colleagues would focus more on filling in the obvious gaps in current laws than in reintroducing far-reaching legislation. There would be, he said, an effort to tighten the restrictions on those categorized as mentally ill or drug abusers from purchasing weapons. Additionally, the senator would push for better information-sharing mechanisms between the military and law-enforcement personnel so as to flag potentially troubled individuals. On these two fronts, Schumer personally wrote Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, demanding quick action (the letter is pasted below).
Schumer also suggested that the party would push legislation, sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), to limit the size of high-capacity clips or magazines, which allow shooters to fire up to 33 bullets before reloading.
But even on that seemingly low-hanging fruit -- which his office confirmed he supports -- he sounded skeptical that much could get done, in part, he explained, because the drop in gun violence in recent years has moved the issue to the backburner of the public's collective consciousness.
Schumer's co-panelist, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okl.), said he would oppose legislation limiting the size of clips or magazines. He did, however, add that he would be "willing to work with Senator Schumer and anybody else who wants to make sure that people who are mentally ill cannot get and use a gun."
Here is Schumer's letter to Holder:
I write today regarding the tragic events which took place this past Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. I believe that this senseless and savage attack requires a reexamination of whom we allow to purchase firearms.
As you know, current federal law explicitly prohibits the sale or transfer of a firearm to "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" (18 USC 922(d)(3)). It has been widely reported that the alleged shooter, Jared L. Loughner, was known to be a regular user of illicit drugs. Indeed, in news reports earlier this week, Army officials confirmed that the gunman was prevented from enlisting in the military because he admitted to using marijuana excessively in his interview with a recruiter. Just as this admission barred his entrance to the military, it should also have disqualified him from purchasing a firearm.
I therefore urge you to examine the issued regulations regarding the legal definition of a drug abuser, and clarify them to include situations in which individuals make an admission of illicit drug use to agents of the federal government, such as military recruiters. In addition, we urge the administration to order military recruiters and other agents of the federal government to report such admissions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in the future.
Had this reporting requirement been in place, Loughner would likely have been prevented from purchasing a firearm. We should fix this reporting loophole so that future tragedies can be prevented.
Thank you for your prompt consideration and attention to this important matter. I look forward to your response.