Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer says assault weapons bill balances Second Amendment rights with public safety

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Transcript of remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) supporting the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 at a press conference on Jan. 24, 2013:

…As many of you know, Sen. Feinstein and I have a long history of working in 1994 to pass the omnibus crime bill, which included the original assault weapons ban. The crime bill made an incredible dent in the scourge of criminal violence that was plaguing our country. The successful ban of assault weapons was a key part of that.

Now times have changed. So the capabilities of those who would do us harm. So I applaud Sen. Feinstein for drafting a updated, smart, and more robust version of the assault weapons ban, which she has outlined.

It comes down to this: Assault weapons were designed for and should be used on our battlefields – not on our streets. And some don’t get that.

You know we can have a rational discussion about bills like that. The [District of Columbia v.] Heller decision paves the way. The Heller decision said that there is a Second Amendment right to bear arms, and it should be respected just as the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments should be.

It means that none of us – none of us – want to take away the hunting rifle that Uncle Tommy gave you when you were 14 years old. We don’t want to do that. Nor do we want to take away a sidearm that a small business owner feels he or she needs in a dangerous neighborhood.

But the Heller decision had a second part written by a very conservative court majority. It said there’s a reasonable limitation on the Second Amendment – just as there are reasonable limitations on the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

The First Amendment – we love it. It’s sacrosanct. The freedom of speech. But you can’t falsely scream “Fire!” in a crowded theater even though that limits your First Amendment ability to speak freely. We have anti-pornography laws. We have libel laws. All of those are limitations on the First Amendment that are reasonable.

Well, the limitations supported in Sen. Feinstein’s bill are reasonable limitations. We know that there is no inalienable right to own and operate 100-round clips on AR-15 assault rifles. That’s certainly within the framework of the Heller decision, where hopefully both sides can meet in the middle on that basis.

Hundred round clips aren’t used for hunting; they aren’t used for self-defense; they’re used to maximize the amount of damage one can do in a short amount of time.

The American people know this. If you look at the polls, the American people understand that there is a Second Amendment and a right to bear arms, and they understand there should be reasonable limitations on that right to bear arms to protect our safety. And they’re wondering why we’re not doing anything to protect them.

We saw in the 1990s that even the weakened assault weapons ban that Sen. Feinstein and I passed helped save lives. The new and improved bill will save many, many more.

So let’s do everything we can to spare the heartache and loss we’ve seen in Connecticut, in Colorado, in New York and in many smaller and less public tragedies around the country.

Will it be hard? For sure. We owe it to our constituents and our country to try.


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