U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) says the attack on the gay nightclub in Florida offers another opportunity to tighten restrictions on guns. He supports the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, and he's also backing a ban on the ability to purchase firearms for people on the terror watch list.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, had been on that list but was taken off it in 2014. Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Kaine about whether there is new momentum for these restrictions after Orlando.
Interview Highlights: Tim Kaine
On whether Congress will enact a gun control measure after the Orlando shooting
"It is the case that we've had such a hard time doing this. But I'm not giving up, because we've seen states enact background check measures, and other common-sense reforms in the aftermath of some of these tragedies. We've seen an American public that is overwhelmingly supportive. Thus far, Congress hasn't listened, but I'm hoping that we will in this case. The shooting, the most horrific single incidence of gun violence in the history of the United States, is about a number of things. There’s an anti-LGBT component, most of the victims were Latinos, most of the weapons used were assault rifles and high capacity magazines, there’s a potential connection to ISIL and maybe a mental health angle as well.
There's a lot at stake here, and we should do everything we can to try to learn and improve. But certainly, this is just an additional wake up call that we need to find solutions to reduce this scourge of gun violence, or we're going to see more and more instances like this. And even in preliminary conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I detect a little bit of a door opening on this. We should do all we can and see if we can stop being passive in the face of these horrible crimes."
"Even in preliminary conversations with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I detect a little bit of a door opening on this. We should do all we can and see if we can stop being passive in the face of these horrible crimes."U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine
On potential support to reauthorize the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004
"I voted to reinstate it in April of 2013 and it only got probably 35 votes, and if you're asking me as a handicapper now what I would think about it, I would say that the chances of that passing would be slim. I've focused a little more on this issue of the high capacity magazines. One of the reasons the assault weapons ban proves difficult is as soon as you define what an assault weapon is statutorily, then gun manufacturers make a modification or two to evade the definition. But the capacity of a magazine is very much simpler, straightforward and more enforceable.
It looks like the clip that was used in this horrible shooting in Orlando, the guy was using 30-round, high capacity magazines. Usually, when these are stopped, it’s when they're stopping to change out the cartridge. And so if you limit the size of the clips, that's a practical thing you can do that will save lives, and it's also the kind of thing that's much harder to kind of get around and evade than has been shown in the past with the assault weapons ban."
On what kind of action Congress could take
"We should do all we can, and it seems like the discussions in the last two days have really focused on this issue of the terror watch list and broader background checks. I have a lot scar tissue on this and so does my Commonwealth because of the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, and what we learned was there was a lot of things that led to that shooting. There was mental health issues, there was campus security protocol issues, but the deranged young man who was able to purchase the weapons of war that led to these deaths was not eligible to have the weapons because he had been adjudicated mentally ill and dangerous. But weaknesses in the background record check system enabled him to get weapons he was legally prohibited from having. If you close down the gaps in the background record check system, you make people safer.
I think the thing that is getting the most attention in the Senate is this question of who should be on the prohibited list, prohibited from owning weapons as a matter of federal law. There's nine categories of individuals that have long been prohibited: felons, those under domestic violence protection orders, those who have been adjudicated mentally ill and dangerous, and there's a real move now to add something to that prohibited list to people who are on the terrorism watch list. Now that's only effective if there's a background record check system that will pick it up. The sense of, if there are going to be prohibited categories of people, those who might be on a terrorism watch list shouldn't get these weapons. This just seems to make common sense to many of us."
This segment aired on June 15, 2016.