We reported yesterday that Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat, plans to introduce an assault weapons ban on the very first day of the new Congress. But his colleague, Democrat Diana DeGette, is pushing for gun-control action even sooner with a bill to ban high-capacity assault magazines that she wants to see voted and passed this week, before the end of the 112th Congress. See video of her speech below.
Here's footage, courtesy of DeGette's office, of her testimony yesterday in Washington, D.C., in which she urged the leadership to give Congress a chance to vote this week on legislation that would ban the production and sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.
Since the Aurora theater shooting on July 20, both Perlmutter and DeGette have said they support policy changes that might reduce the risk of a terrible mass shooting.
Just days after suspect James Holmes entered a movie theater and fired shots that killed twelve and injured dozens more, Perlmutter called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. His aides say he has been working on this bill for months, but he renewed the call this week and said he would bring it forward on the first day of the new Congress next month.
The urgency and momentum around the measure stems from the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday, in which a twenty-year-old gunman, with the same kind of assault rifle that Holmes carried, entered an elementary school and killed twenty children and six adults.
That horrific event has sparked a heated gun debate across the country -- and one that is getting a lot of attention in Colorado, where two days before the shooting, Governor John Hickenlooper said he wants to see new legislation that would address this kind of violence.
And yesterday President Barack Obama, who has said he supports the assault weapons ban, made his boldest move yet on gun policy, announcing a task force on the issue that will come up with a package of policy recommendations in January.
Yesterday also marked the Democrats' push for a "first step to address gun massacres," as DeGette's office says in a press release. DeGette, who in August introduced a bill to restrict online ammunition sales, joined Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York and dozens of House Democrats to call for the immediate passage this week of a bill that would prohibit the sale of the kind of clips that were used in Newtown, Connecticut, and in Aurora. Perlmutter also supports this measure; if it doesn't pass this week, his office says it will be folded into the assault weapons ban he has proposed.
DeGette's measure, which she and McCarthy introduced earlier this Congress, needs to come to a vote immediately if they hope to pass it this year. That would require buy-in from the GOP.
The time is right now, DeGette said at the news conference, arguing that people across the country mourning the death of innocent children want to see some concrete action.
Diana DeGette speaking at a campaign event earlier this year.
"Columbine's in my district now and Aurora's right down the street from my house," said DeGette, who represents Denver. "The horror of Newtown remains unspeakable... We've been here before -- over and over again, calling for action after these terrible massacres. But...this time is different. This time, we had twenty little beautiful angels and their teachers taken from us, and finally our nation seems to realize collectively that it's the time to have a deep national conversation."
DeGette said that in January, she and her colleagues will have a wide range of debates on different policy moves that could help address this kind of violence, including a discussion about mental health.
But, she added, "Right now, we can do something, this week, before Congress leaves. We can pass legislation that will be a first and a reasonable step to help protect our children and to help show that Congress has the will to begin stopping these massacres. This week."
She continued, "We can probably never stop a disturbed individual completely from taking a gun and going into a school...and trying to shoot people. But we can give those victims a fighting chance."
In Newtown, the gunman allegedly shot most of his victims with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon, using multiple 30-round magazines, DeGette's office notes. With this kind of weapon, he was able to kill 26 different people in less than ten minutes.
Children in Aurora on July 20 at the first vigil after the theater shooting.
The bill is officially called the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act. As of late yesterday afternoon, the legislation has 140 co-sponsors -- and 21 of them are new additions since the Connecticut massacre, DeGette told reporters.
The congresswoman, who first introduced the bill in 1998, said she was pleased that she and Representative McCarthy have gotten so many supporters, but was disappointed that none of them are Republicans.
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"We have approached many of our Republican friends and colleagues," she said. "Some of them say they're thinking about it, and we hope they think hard about it....It would send a message to the moms, to the dads, to the people of this country that we're serious."
More from our Politics archive: "Newtown, Aurora and Columbine: Mass shootings, gun hysteria...and MK Ultra?"