WASHINGTON, DC, Wednesday, April 17, 2013—Today, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, delivered the following speech on the Senate floor voicing his opposition to proposed gun control legislation.
“M. President, I rise to defend the Second Amendment to our Constitution.
“M. President, recent mass killings, such as those in Connecticut and Colorado, are the impetus for the gun control legislation before the Senate. I mourn the victims of these senseless acts of violence carried out by seriously disturbed individuals. Unfortunately, M. President, this legislation would do nothing to prevent such tragedies going forward.
“The harsh but unavoidable fact is that no amount of government intervention can prevent irrational people from doing terrible things. Therefore, we should not react to these tragedies in an irrational manner that would erode a fundamental right of every citizen.
“M. President, the Second Amendment states unambiguously: “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It makes plain to criminals that their targets have the right to defend themselves, their families, and their property. Since criminals do not follow the law, new restrictions will hinder only the law-abiding among us.
“And make no mistake, M. President, this is just the first assault on the Second Amendment. More background checks today, gun registration tomorrow. Who knows what will follow after that. Congress should reject it all now.
“M. President, my opposition to the legislation before the Senate is not abstract. Gun control laws have proved ineffective in reducing violent crime.
“M. President, as gun ownership in the United States has increased over recent years, nationwide crime rates have decreased. Nonpartisan studies, however, show no correlation between the now-expired assault weapons ban and the decrease in crime rates. Still, violence has spiked in certain pockets of the country.
“In Chicago, for example, murder rates are soaring. Yet Chicago has among the most draconian gun laws in the country. These trends have developed, M. President, not because of gun control legislation, but in spite of it.
“Despite this failed record, M. President, the legislation before the Senate pushes more of the same. This so-called compromise amendment would do nothing but compromise our Second Amendment rights.
“First, it would drastically expand background checks for gun purchases in an inconsistent and unenforceable manner.
“For example, the legislation mandates background checks for all firearm purchases at gun shows between two non-licensed parties.
“Yet it is unclear whether the same buyer and seller would have to run a background check if they meet at a gun show but wait until it is over to execute the sale.
“The legislation also mandates background checks for any gun purchase pursuant to an advertisement by buyer or seller.
“This would be extremely difficult to enforce under a narrow definition of what constitutes an advertisement. Under the extremely broad definition provided in this amendment, enforcement would be virtually impossible.
“M. President, will determined criminals not simply avoid gun shows and advertisements?
“M. President, we should not restrict transactions between law-abiding citizens, especially when we will not prevent such transactions between criminals.
“This amendment would also allow health care providers to place a patient in the National Instant Criminal Background Check database.
This would violate patients’ privacy and remove their Second Amendment rights based on subjective judgments and without any clear guidelines or due process.
“Moreover, it is unclear whether a patient must be informed of the health care provider’s decision to submit his or her private health information to authorities.
“M. President, this provision could very well discourage those who need mental health services from seeking them for fear that their constitutional rights may be abrogated.
“We should not put doctors or patients in this position.
“In addition, M. President, the FBI estimates that enforcing these background checks would cost approximately 100 million dollars annually.
“At the same time, the amendment prohibits the FBI from charging federally-licensed firearm dealers to run these background checks.
“The money must come from someone, M. President. Will it be gun buyers or taxpayers? Either way, I oppose it.
“But again, M. President, this legislation is just the first step. It would lay the groundwork for even more draconian and ineffective gun control measures.
“As one of the Justice Department’s leading crime researchers has stated, the government’s ability to implement near universal background checks would rely at least in part on “requiring gun registration.”
“M. President, there are as many guns in this country as there are people, according to some estimates. That’s more than 300 million.
“The bureaucracy already cannot track all of the people illegally residing in this country.
“Why, then, would anyone believe that the bureaucracy could track all of the guns illegally possessed in this country?
“And who would pay for it?
“Would gun owners be subject to still more fees or taxes for exercising their Second Amendment rights?
“Who would have access to the registry?
“Would the public know who owns guns and who does not?
“Who would ensure that this sensitive information is protected and not used for political purposes? And how?
“We do not know the answers to these questions, but we do know that such restrictions will not prevent the next tragedy.
“We should not start down this dangerous road.
“Instead of undermining the Second Amendment, M. President, Congress should focus its attention on three areas, in my judgment.
“First, I believe that robust prosecution of violent criminals is the best deterrent to violent crime. Prosecutors should punish to the fullest extent of the law individuals who misuse guns or knives or their hands or anything else to commit violent crimes. There should be no leniency whatsoever for the commission of such crimes.
“Second, M. President, we should examine and address any deficiencies in our mental health system. Time and again, we have seen a strong connection between mental illness and violent crime.
“We should not fall prey to the delusion that government can prevent all bad things. Nor should we assume that simply throwing money at the problem will solve it. However, we should do a better job of helping those with mental illnesses before their problems spiral out of control.
“Third, we should weigh the impact of violence in entertainment on violent crime in the nation. Many video games, movies, television shows, and songs contain graphic depictions of violence.
“Common sense says that gloried violence can distort impressionable minds – particularly those afflicted with mental illness. Still, many in Hollywood defend the First Amendment to the Constitution with the same wild-eyed zeal that they trash the Second.
“M. President, I stand here to defend the Bill of Rights in its entirety.
“In closing, M. President, I have recently held public meetings in each of my state’s 67 counties.
“My constituents are deeply concerned about any infringement of their Second Amendment rights.
“They are concerned about their ability to protect themselves….
“They are concerned about their ability to protect their families…
“They are concerned about their ability to protect their property….
“They are concerned that the activities, traditions, and way of life they have long and peacefully enjoyed will be outlawed…
“They are concerned that they may unknowingly run afoul of new gun control laws because the proposals before us are so illogical and inconsistent and contrary to common sense.
“M. President, this is a legislative misfire.
“I have outlined what I believe would constitute a clear-eyed response to the situation at hand.
“I will continue to vigorously oppose gun control legislation.
“I will continue to stand firm in defense of the Second Amendment.
“Thank you. I yield the floor.”