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Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley on gun reform: 'Democrats have it backwards'

Josh Hawley
Posted at 2:37 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 15:37:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — President Joe Biden called for Congress to pass gun legislation on Tuesday, one day after 10 people were killed during a mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, pushed back at that idea Wednesday, telling 41 Action News that Biden and Democrats in Congress "have it just backwards."

Hawley said the focus of Congress shouldn't be on "taking away Second Amendment rights from law-abiding citizens" and instead should be on prosecuting people who commit violent crimes.

"We have got to get serious about violent crime," Hawley said. It is a mistake to reduce the sentences of violent criminals. It is mistake to look the other way when criminals commit offenses with firearms."

One proposed bill gaining traction nationally, including in Missouri, addresses the "Charleston loophole."

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, or House Resolution 8, passed the U.S. House earlier this month and was sent to the U.S. Senate.

The bill — which was introduced March 1 by Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat — "establishes new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties (i.e., unlicensed individuals)."

It requires the private seller to have "a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. The prohibition does not apply to certain firearm transfers or exchanges, such as a gift between spouses in good faith."

Hawley declined to address directly the proposed legislation, which is meant to close a loophole in the background check system that has been exploited — sometimes to deadly consequences.

Instead, he said efforts to pass the legislation are part of a broader plan to implement a national gun registry.

"That's clearly what they want," Hawley said. "A gun registry is the only way to make their policies effective. They talk about universal background checks. You're going to need a registry in order to make that effective, and I just think that's very, very dangerous to Second Amendment rights."

Hawley outlined some ideas to prevent violent crimes, including more targeted use of law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets. He also suggested looking at a person's mental health history when doing background checks to potential gun buyers.

"I think we can take steps to continue to fix the NICS system to make sure that folks that have mental health incidents, particularly if they're related to criminal activity, that it's get flagged," Hawley said.