Dear Mr. Hill:
Thank you for contacting me in response to new gun control legislation. It was good to hear your views on this important issue.
In the wake of the tragedy that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, it is important that we as policy makers and as Americans examine ways that we can prevent similar acts of violence in the future.
Recent legislation introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein of California on January 24, 2013, aims to ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of 157 specifically named rifles, pistols, shotguns, and bullet-fed semiautomatic firearms. The bill also bans all ammunition feeding devices (magazines, strips, and drums) capable of accepting more than 10 rounds and all semiautomatic rifles that have at least one so called military feature from a list that includes: a pistol grip; a forward grip; a folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; a grenade launcher or a rocket launcher; a barrel shroud; or a threaded barrel. In addition, anyone who currently owns any of these prohibited firearms would be subject to the grandfather clause which prohibits any sale or transfer without strict background checks. The current legislation goes much further than the 1994 Assault Weapons ban which banned only 19 specific firearms and banned semi-automatic weapons that had at least two military characteristics.
I have always been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights throughout my time in Congress. The right of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is enshrined in both our federal constitution and in West Virginia’s state constitution. Responsible gun ownership is part of our heritage in West Virginia and I have heard from thousands of West Virginians who have expressed their opposition to a new federal ban on certain firearms. I believe that the legislation proposed by Senator Feinstein represents poor public policy. Should the bill come before the House of Representatives, I will oppose it.
I believe that Congress must instead take steps to improve our mental health system, address the spread of violence on television and in video games, and ensure that our existing gun laws are enforced in order to prevent felons and those with serious mental conditions from owning or possessing a gun. Mental illness has been a common denominator in a number of recent mass killings, and government has a role to play in making sure that treatment is available and accessible before a violent act occurs. I will work in support of legislation that improves the safety of our communities and protects our children by addressing the causes of violence.
Again, thank you for contacting me with your views on this issue. I loo k forward to hearing from you again soon. It is an honor to serve you in Congress.