The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has prompted two New York lawmakers in Congress to call for the passage of gun reform legislation.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, hosted a roundtable Monday in Westchester County about local businesses and exporting, but focused the first several minutes on the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“If this isn’t a wakeup I don’t know what else is,” says Gillibrand. “Congress has the responsibility to pass laws to keep our country safe, and American should not have to go through their daily lives in fear of gun violence.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, followed Gillibrand at the roundtable in dedicating time to the deadly attack.
“When an incident like this happened, our hearts are just broken. And we all mourn the loss of lives and the suffering of the families but, after the pain, I just get angry because vote after vote, as our good senator knows, whether it’s on the Appropriations committee, whether it’s on the floor of the House, we cannot get our colleagues to support us in making sure there are adequate background checks. How did this man buy this gun?” Lowey says.
Officials say 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub in the early morning killing 49 people and injuring 53. While Gillibrand and Lowey call for a ban on assault rifles, one of which investigators say Mateen legally purchased, Republican Congressman Chris Gibson tells WAMC’s Dr. Alan Chartock that, contrary to a New York Daily News headline, the National Rifle Association is not to blame for its opposition to such a ban.
“The fact of the matter is is this guy conducted an attack and, from the early reports I have, Doc, not only a rifle, a pistol, maybe plural, and then also an explosive device. I think it’s important to know that if that explosive device, if that story turns out to be true, that was illegal,” says Gibson. “So we should not… We should look for fact-based, reality-based assessments as we move forward, and if this guy was bringing an explosive device in, which was against the law, and then he killed people, which was against the law, then how do we think for a moment that a terrorist is going to follow a law.”
President Barack Obama addressed the nation the day of the attack.
“The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” Obama said. “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Gibson says there is evidence that banning assault rifles does not strengthen public safety.
“We had a period from 1994-2004 when AR-15s were prohibited from being sold and the evidence was it did not make us more secure,” Gibson says.
“We have to really take a close look at our policies about how easy it is for a terrorist to walk into a store and buy an automatic rifle, to buy a weapon that is designed solely to kill large numbers of people instantly, “ says Gillibrand. “And so we need commonsense gun reform. We need to have a ban on these military-style weapons. We need to have background checks. We need a federal crime against trafficking. All of these changes would make crimes like this less possible.”
A request for comment from the National Rifle Association was not returned.