Amid a mid-week fury over gun control on Capitol Hill, a pair of Democrats on Tuesday pitched a new idea – restricting children from possessing or firing assault rifles – but Second Amendment advocates object.
Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced a bill they intend to push as a response to the recent wave of gun violence across the country. The legislation would prohibit any child 16 years of age or younger from possessing or firing military-style firearms at shooting ranges and gun shows.
The bill was inspired by the August 2014 shooting death of Charles Vacca, a firearms instructor in Arizona who was killed by a nine-year-old child who lost control of an Uzi submachine gun. There was also a death at a 2008 gun show in Massachusetts when an eight-year-old child accidentally shot himself.
“Only the heartless would oppose common-sense legislation that would prevent future shootings like this,” Markey said at a mid-morning press conference.
Markey and Gallego were joined Tuesday by members of Vacca’s family. “Incidents such as these all across the country have shown that kids and these type of firearms are a tragic mix,” Gallego said.
The National Rifle Association wouldn’t immediately comment on Tuesday, but other gun-rights groups quickly spoke out. Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag.com and an official at the Washington state-based Second Amendment Foundation, said the legislation could actually be a setback to firearm safety for children, especially since semi-automatic rifles themselves are currently among the most popular types of firearms.
He said youth-styled shooting competitions double as safety lessons, and pointed out that some states allow hunting education programs to youths as young as 10 years old.
“Legislation like this completely ignores the participation of youngsters in youth-shooting sports and activities,” Workman told AMI Newswire. “Also, it removes the opportunity for these kids to learn proper firearms handling and firearm safety … That kind of rifle can actually accommodate smaller shooters with less recoil so they can still hunt with certain calibers, so this is kind of a swipe at those kids being able to hunt with the same kind of guns as their fathers.”
Tuesday’s announcement came amid a flurry of gun-related action on Capitol Hill, as both Democrats and Republicans struggle with how to respond to a wave of gun violence across the country. GOP leaders who control the House and Senate have made it clear they will not allow many votes on gun control proposals; yet, they are anxious to seem responsive before returning home to face their election-year constituencies.
One idea that has emerged in the House, by GOP Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, is to pour more money into popular neighborhood outreach programs that address gun violence through local task forces. However, Democrats literally shut down the House chamber last month in their insistence on gun control votes, so it is unclear if Reichert’s idea will pacify the minority party.
On Tuesday morning alone, the top two leaders of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference to promote gun control measures, followed hours later by three other House Democrats and Progressive Caucus members who called for a renewed assault weapons ban.
All of the congressional activity came on the same day that President Obama traveled to Dallas to speak at a memorial service honoring the five police officers killed by a sniper last week. Former President George W. Bush, who lives in the city, also spoke at the ceremony.