LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - During debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, (R-TX), argued in favor of 2nd Amendment rights for law-abiding Texas gun owners.
According to the Associated Press, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would toughen laws against people who illegally buy guns for others. It was first time law makers voted on a gun control measure since the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.
"My concern is that this bill is a solution in search of a problem," Cornyn said in a press release. "Straw purchasing for purpose of directing guns to people who cannot legally obtain them is already a crime. And so we double down and say, 'This time we really mean it,' when in fact the real problem, I think, in many instances is the lack of prosecution of existing crimes by the Department of Justice."
In the press release, Cornyn said he has a hard time explaining to his constituents in Texas "how passing more laws that will go un-enforced will make them any safer."
The committee voted 11-7 to approve the measure, which boosted penalties against straw purchases, when people legally buy firearms for criminals or others legally barred from owning one, according to an Associated Press story. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the measure, whose chief sponsor was the panel's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The panel also debated bills banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases, and providing more money for schools to buy video cameras and other safety equipment, according to the Associated Press.
Cornyn also voiced his opposition to the proposed assault weapons ban.
"Congress and President Clinton tried a so-called assault weapons ban 19 years ago, and we have the benefit of hindsight as well as some research to examine the lackluster results of that decade-long experiment," Cornyn said in a press release. "According to the Department of Justice's own study, it was completely ineffectual in reducing murder or violent crime rates."
Cornyn said the U.S. government has already tried an assault weapons ban once, and it failed, adding, "I think it promotes symbolism over seriousness to repeat that mistake."
During the discussion in the Judiciary Committee, Cornyn offered an amendment that would exempt all U.S. military personnel and veterans from the proposed ban on assault weapons. According to a press release, although the amendment received bipartisan support, it did not pass.
In the press release, Cornyn said that the gun control measures being discussed by the Judiciary Committee are distracting members of Congress from addressing issues like "keeping deranged madmen from buying guns."
"If there was a common thread in the Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, and Newtown massacres, it was the mental illness of the shooter," Cornyn said in a press release. "The commonality is not the type of guns used - the common thread was mental illness. No one wants disturbed young men or women for that matter to have access to firearms."
Cornyn said instead of addressing "the perilous intersection of mental illness and guns," the proposed assault weapons ban focuses on "cosmetic features of certain firearms."
"We should refocus our efforts to make sure the current background check system works to screen out the dangerously mental ill," Cornyn said in a press release. "But sadly we seem to be focused on window dressing and risk putting symbolism over substance."
In addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cornyn also serves on the Finance Committee and as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security Subcommittee.