BurbankNBeyond interviewed Rep. Adam Schiff of California’s 28th District in late February, discussing a wide variety of topics of interest to Burbank residents and other surrounding communities. As the topic of gun control continues to stimulate healthy debate from nearly all levels of society, Rep. Schiff provides a good view into his viewpoint, and representation of the issue in Congress.
BurbankNBeyond: Gun control is a big topic, at the federal, state, and local level. What is your perspective on the issue?
Rep. Schiff: I believe we should have responsible safety measures, and I say that as somebody who grew up with guns in the house, enjoyed hunting with my father, and still enjoys target practice and shooting clays from time to time.
But nothing in the 2nd Amendment precludes us from placing reasonable restrictions on military-grade weapons like assault weapons, or the capacity of extended ammunition clips. Certainly we should have universal background checks, and I also feel we should crack down on straw purchases of weapons.
I introduced a bill to do exactly that, now two or three years ago, so I re-introduced it this session.
I also believe we should roll back the special immunity the gun industry enjoys that no other industry in America does. And that is gun sellers can act in a negligent way, and can turn a blind eye to the straw purchasers that come and buy dozens of weapons and then turn the m over to people who can’t pass a background check.
There is no reason we should hold them immune from responsibility, or from negligence. No other industry in America enjoys that special status.
So I do think there are some changes that we need to make. There are two facets of the problem that we have to deal with. One is the horrendous level of every day gun violence in many of our cities, that claim lives all over the country on a daily, weekly basis.
And the other are these horrible mass-shootings like we saw in Newtown, which are really an injury to the country itself. They are different kinds of problems that require different kinds of solutions. But we should not put up with this, and we cannot accept this as a facet of American life. We can do better than this, and we really have to.
BurbankNBeyond: So there are two topics you mentioned, one is prior to a person getting their hands on a gun, as is their right within the 2nd Amendment , and there is also the result when people misuse weapons and atrocities like Newtown and (Chris) Dorner here locally have committed. Should there be more drastic sentences for people who commit crimes which include a weapon? Is that a deterrent? A priority?
Rep. Schiff: I think that is a very high priority, particularly when it comes to “straw” purchasers. These (“straw” purchasers) are people who lie about why they are purchasing a gun, claim they are purchasing it for themselves, when in fact they are purchasing it for someone else. They are really a straw purchaser. And they’ll turn it over to someone who can’t pass a background check.
That in the past has been considered a paperwork violation, and we need to beef up the penalties on this kind of violation not only to deter this kind of conduct, but also to allow us to go after higher-ups in some of the gun trafficking organizations.
So that’s an area where we definitely need to increase penalties.
When you look at a situation like Newtown, though, someone who is mentally ill, goes out and commits a heinous crime, is not likely to be deterred by what the sentence is. And there we have to look at a few things. We have to look at mental health – making sure that those who are mentally ill are not able to buy weapons or gain access to weapons.
And number two, we have to make sure that the kind of weapons they can access, or that others can access are not made for just killing large numbers of people in a short amount of time. As is in the case of an assault weapon equipped with an extended ammunition clip.
I think the different natures of the problem requires different remedies, and this is where we need to take a comprehensive approach to the problem.