U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday that he will introduce a bill to close what he called a "ludicrous loophole" by requiring that people undergo instant background checks when they buy ammunition — just as they must do before they buy a gun.
"Felons, fugitives, domestic violence abusers, seriously mentally ill people — all are barred by law from buying ammunition and guns, but there are no checks for ammunition sales to enforce the law," Blumenthal, D-Conn., said during a conference call with reporters. "Ammunition is now the black hole in gun violence prevention."
Under Blumenthal's bill, the quick checks that federally licensed firearms dealers are required to perform on would-be gun purchasers — using the FBI's National Instant Background Check System (NICS) — would also be required to determine if an ammunition buyer falls into one of the banned categories.
Blumenthal said he's trying to "keep faith" with families in Newtown and throughout the state who have asked, "Please do something," to reduce gun violence after the Dec. 14 shooting massacre of 20 first-graders and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Blumenthal spoke on the same day that former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, marked the second anniversary of her near-fatal shooting in Arizona — an incident in which six people died — by announcing an anti-violence initiative of their own called Americans for Responsible Solutions. They did it in a televised interview with "ABC World News" anchor Diane Sawyer.
"Americans for Responsible Solutions will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them," the new group's Internet website says.
Giffords and Kelly visited Newtown last Friday, accompanied by officials including Blumenthal, to meet with families affected by the tragedy, which Giffords and Kelly said convinced them that they need to speak out.
"[The] first couple that we spoke to, the dad took out his cellphone and showed us a picture of his daughter and I just about lost it, just by looking at the picture," Kelly said. "It was just very tough and it brought back a lot of memories about what that was like for us some two years ago."
"Strength," Giffords said she told the families.
'No Rational Reason'
In explaining his planned Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, Blumenthal said: "There is no rational reason why a person can walk into a store, fill their shopping cart with hundreds of rounds of ammo, pay up, and walk out without so much as giving their name. … This proposal would close this ludicrous loophole."
Blumenthal said that his bill would be "relatively costless" because it would extend an existing checking procedure rather than invent a new one.
He called the measure "a key common-sense component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence," adding that it would provide a better chance to intervene in cases in which a troubled person might harm others.
Adam Lanza, the Newtown gunman, brought hundreds of rounds of ammunition to the school and fired an estimated 150, before killing himself when police arrived. He earlier had shot his mother to death at the Newtown home they shared.
Blumenthal said his bill also would:
—Require gun dealers to report to state and local police the "large-scale" purchase by any individual of 1,000 or more rounds of ammunition. The requirement would apply to multiple, smaller purchases if they add up to 1,000 rounds in five business days. "Large-scale purchases of ammunition are the fuel often driving mass murders," he said.
—Extend an existing ban on bullets capable of piercing body armor and endangering police. Specifically banned would be Teflon-coated bullets and "incendiary" rounds that ignite or explode on contact, Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said that he will seek co-sponsors among his Senate colleagues and plans to introduce the bill by the end of the month.
The bill wouldn't cover the many ammunition purchases made at gun shows, where background checks also don't have to be performed for gun sales between private parties. Blumenthal said it's estimated that 40 percent of all gun purchases happen at gun shows, adding that this "gun show loophole" needs to be closed via additional federal legislation.
He said he also thinks that the now-defunct federal ban on assault weapons could be reinstated in the changing political climate after the Newtown massacre — along with a ban on high-capacity gun magazines that have more than 10 rounds, such as the 30-round magazines that Lanza used. Blumenthal also said there need to be "mental health initiatives."Copyright © 2015, CT Now