WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., as the first of several bills on gun control, has proposed legislation that would require background checks for anyone buying ammunition, similar to those required for purchasers of firearms.
Blumenthal, in a conference call with the press Tuesday, said "ammunition is the black hole of gun violence prevention."
He said felons, persons with domestic restraining orders, drug addicts, those involuntarily committed to mental institutions, fugitives and undocumented individuals are not allowed to purchase guns or ammunition.
But Blumenthal said they can "load an entire shopping cart with ammunition with no background check." He called his measure "a common sense enforcement tool."
The Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013 also would require that records be kept of the buys and local and state officials informed of a purchase of more than 1,000 rounds within five days time or when a large amount of ammunition is stolen. The record keeping aspect was a requirement from 1968 to 1986.
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, however, said the required record keeping aspect was rescinded in 1986 at the behest of the Treasury Department because "it served no law enforcement purpose."
The National Shooting Sportsman Foundation spokesman Mike Bazinet said it had no comment on the proposal or other gun law changes at this time and referred the press to comments it issued at the time of the Newtown slayings and Obama's visit to the town.
"We listened with careful attention to President Obama's statement from the White House today. Being one of the "stakeholders" he discussed, we would welcome the opportunity at the appropriate time to become part of a full national conversation with all policy makers that has as its goal the improved protection of our children and our communities from future violence," that statement reads.
Blumenthal would also add Teflon coated bullets, as well as incendiary bullets, which are designed to explode on contact, to the list of banned ammunition.
He said the measures are the result of discussions with law enforcement officials, mental health experts and the desires of the families of the 20 children and six teachers slaughtered by Adam Lanza last month when he forced his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The worst elementary school massacre ever has been the impetus for a long-stalled discussion on gun control and the country's mental health system.
The senator said persons with gun permits could present that documentation to buy ammunition, while a background check only takes seconds to accomplish for licensed gun dealers. Unlicensed dealers would need to get a federal license or go through a licensed seller.
Blumenthal said more than 100 million background checks have been undertaken with 700,000 persons not allowed to buy a weapon in the past decade, even with the existing loophole that does not require these checks at unlicensed gun shows.
"These numbers show background checks have had an effect" in preventing the wrong individuals from obtaining guns, the senator said.
Blumenthal also favors a return to the ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and better access to mental health treatment, which he promised to help write, but they would be part of separate bills. He said he is working with Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein of California and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York on those measures.
Blumenthal said he has "no pride of authorship" if his proposals were incorporated into President Barack Obama's package that is now being developed with the help of a panel headed by Vice President Joe Biden. Blumenthal said Biden did not endorse his proposal, but he was encouraging.
The senator was asked if he expected sustained pushback from the gun industry, but said he hoped it would support this as a "common sense" measure.
He said the background check can take "30 seconds" or a phone call. He said "the cost is negligible compared to the benefits," referring to the $5 million allotted to sustain the FBI's National Instant Background Check System (NICS).
"I think they will welcome this idea," Blumenthal said of gun dealers who he said "don't want the bad guys buying guns and ammunition."
Blumenthal said he added it to the bill at the request of local and state law enforcement officials who said they could use seller records to solve gun crimes. He said he would talk to Treasury officials about the issue.
The senator said alerting law enforcement to large purchases of ammunition could "enable proactive intervention. Large scale purchases of ammunition are the fuel often driving mass murders."
Blumenthal, who is serving his first term in the U.S. Senate, said he was encouraged by the announcement Tuesday of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, that they had formed a political action committee to raise money to support gun control efforts as a balance to the powerful gun lobby
Giffords, who was seriously wounded in a shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. at a meet-and-greet with her constituents in 2011, visited Newtown last week to meet with Blumenthal and others, as well as some of the families of the Newtown victims. Six people were killed in that Arizona mass slaying and a total of 13 wounded.
Blumenthal said it was important to sustain the momentum in the country to take on gun violence prevention now.
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