House Democrats Will ‘Engage’ on Gun Control, When Timing Is Right

Posted July 24, 2012 at 11:21am

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson said today his colleagues were determined to push gun-control legislation in the wake of last week’s movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. — but only after some period of time had lapsed from the tragedy.

“It is a matter of the sensitivity and wanting to make sure that we get beyond the grieving period. But I think you will see Democrats very engaged on this issue,” the Connecticut lawmaker told reporters.

Although he said Democrats had not settled on any concrete legislative approach, Larson did give a sense of one issue lawmakers might address, discussing his sense that individuals should not be permitted to purchase large quantities of ammunition without “red flags” being raised.

“I don’t know how 6,000 rounds of ammunition isn’t red-flagged, anyway,” Larson said, referring to the thousands of bullets purchased by alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes in the months leading up to the shooting. “If you deposit $10,000 in a bank, all kinds of flags go off and everybody knows about it.”

Larson’s promise contrasts with the approach taken by the White House, whose spokesman, Jay Carney, has said President Barack Obama will only seek to strengthen enforcement of existing gun laws.

Some Democrats saw that statement as taking the urgency out of any legislative push.

“With Carney saying that Obama was not going to push anything, it took the wind out of [everyone’s] sails,” a Senate Democratic aide told Roll Call earlier this week.

At the House Democratic Caucus meeting this morning, Colorado Reps. Ed Perlmutter (who represents Aurora), Diana DeGette, and Jared Polis briefed colleagues on the shooting.

“There’s a great deal of determination on the part of the people from Colorado and our members, and in particular Ed Perlmutter,” to deal legislatively with guns, Larson said.

Although President Bill Clinton helped usher in legislation banning assault weapons in the 1990s, Democrats largely abandoned the issue in the 2000s, with many Democrats in rural or conservative districts advertising their strong beliefs in protecting gun rights.

Larson said the issue is “enormously difficult to get across to the voting public” but that events such as the shooting in Aurora can help advocates for gun-control bills.