By Mark Kellam, firstname.lastname@example.org
4:54 PM PST, January 4, 2013
As the students and teachers involved in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary returned to school this week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) begins serving on a congressional task force set up to address gun violence and propose potential gun-reform measures.
Schiff answered questions on Thursday regarding his decision to join the task force, his opinion of the 2nd Amendment and his personal experience with firearms.
Burbank Leader: The gun violence issue is so politically charged. Why would you throw yourself out into the public spotlight and possibly face severe criticism?
Adam Schiff: When I was first elected to office, I threw myself into these issues because they are so important — literally life and death. I saw that every day when I worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and prosecuted many violent felonies and gun cases. I saw assault weapons that had no business being on the streets. And I became all too familiar with the ease in which the wrong people had access to the most lethal weapons.
It is true that the issue is politically charged and treacherous. When I first ran for Congress, I was strongly opposed by the National Rifle Assn., and they can be a force to be reckoned with. But criticism and opposition is part of the job, and as my father — a gun owner himself — likes to say, “If it were easy, it wouldn't be worth doing.”
Q: What is your opinion about the 2nd Amendment and how it relates to modern technology?
A: I support the 2nd Amendment, and recognize that it guarantees Americans the right to bear arms. But I do not believe, nor has the Supreme Court found, that the right to bear arms applies to every firearm, from a manually operated hunting rifle to an AK-47, machine gun or rocket-propelled grenade.
Moreover, the Supreme Court has upheld responsible gun safety legislation, and there is no legal bar to requiring background checks for every gun sale.
Certainly, there are legitimate reasons to own firearms, from hunting to self-protection, but that doesn't preclude us from regulating certain types of firearms and ammunition clips whose only real purpose is to kill massive numbers of people in a minimum amount of time.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish on the gun violence task force?
A: After Newtown, I believe our nation has reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence. We just can't keep going through tragedy after unspeakable tragedy like this. It has to stop. The members on this task force have that common goal — to prevent future gun violence and massacres — and we will work to identify common-sense solutions that will have a real impact, regardless of the politics.
We also eagerly anticipate what the vice president's group will propose, and urge the president to use his bully pulpit to help us pass legislation requiring background checks of all gun purchasers, banning extended ammunition clips and assault rifles, and removing the immunity from legal remedies that the gun industry enjoys and which is unique among every industry in America.
Q: Do you own a gun? Why or why not?
A: I grew up in a home with guns above the fireplace in the den, and my brother and I enjoyed hunting with our dad. He taught us to use firearms safely and to have respect for them and the risks that they pose, much like he taught us to swim and respect the power of the ocean.
Today, I do not own any firearms, but I still very much enjoy shooting targets and clays. My background gives me a respect for hunters and sportsmen, but it also convinces me that nothing should preclude us from enacting common-sense gun measures that will ultimately save lives.
I have never seen a hunter use an AK-47, and don't know why anyone needs an extended ammunition clip. At the end of the day, do we really want bad guys to have access to firearms more deadly than those carried by the police who protect our neighborhoods?
Follow Mark Kellam on Twitter: @LAMarkKellam.