WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urged Congress on Thursday to reconsider legislation to expand background checks in the wake of a deadly shooting at Fort Hood.
The Texas military base faced its second mass shooting in five years on Wednesday, after Iraq War veteran Ivan Lopez allegedly killed three and injured 16 before taking his own life.
"As I was told today, this young man bought his gun a day or two before he killed these people," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill.
"Couldn't we at least have background checks so that people who are ill mentally, or who are felons, shouldn't be able to buy guns?" Reid said. "Even NRA members -- a majority of them -- support that, so I hope we can bring it back up."
Reid acknowledged that he could not take any action on background checks until he had sufficient votes in his chamber. A measure that would expand background checks for all firearm purchases failed in the Senate last April, despite support from 90 percent of Americans after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
It's unlikely that the legislation would be revived until after the 2014 midterm elections, in which red states will largely determine whether Democrats will hold onto their Senate majority. Two of the Democrats facing reelection, Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), voted against the background checks bill last year and continue to oppose it. Just four Republicans voted in its favor.
President Barack Obama has since used his executive authority to take limited steps that would boost the federal background checks system. One expands the definition of the statutory term "committed to a mental institution" to clarify that individuals subjected to involuntary outpatient as well as inpatient commitments are prohibited from purchasing firearms. Another change clarifies the rule that "adjudicated as a mental defective" and "committed to a mental institution" include persons who are found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect; persons lacking mental responsibility or deemed insane; and persons found guilty but mentally ill, regardless of whether these determinations are made by a state, local, federal or military court.
Authorities have said that while Lopez passed a background check, he had been under examination to determine whether he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have had other behavioral and mental health issues. He reportedly bought the firearm he used in the shooting -- a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol -- legally from the same store where 2009 Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan purchased his.