Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said on Wednesday he will begin hearings in two weeks to consider proposals to address gun violence.
"Spare me symbolic arguments. Let's have a constructive discussion about how better to protect our communities from mass shootings while respecting the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Supreme Court," Leahy said in a speech at Georgetown University Law Center.
Leahy said that his committee would adopt a broad approach, with a series of hearings examining violence in the media, mental-health services and access to guns, in the wake of the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month.
A gun owner and supporter of certain gun rights, Leahy told the students that he was most interested in closing the gun show “loopholes” by making background checks more widespread for unlicensed gun dealers, as well as limiting the number of bullets that a firearm’s ammunition clip can hold at one time.
“About the only gun law we have in Vermont is during deer season, if you have a semi-automatic [gun] you can’t have more than 6 rounds in it,” said Leahy. “Are we really, as a nation, saying we’re going to be more protective of the deer than we are of our children? I think not.”
The White House issued its own recommendations on gun violence on Wednesday, a mix of legislative proposals and executive actions President Obama can implement unilaterally.
"Of course the Judiciary Committee will consider those proposals," Leahy said.
But gun control legislation could face an uphill climb in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the weekend suggested that he would not stage votes on measures that would be unlikely to also pass in the GOP-controlled House.
Leahy, who has a “C” grade rating from the National Rifle Association, hedged his bets on whether a sweeping gun reform package could pass the Senate. But he said he is committed to taking some form of action.
“I have a track record of getting legislation passed,” said Leahy. “What I’m interested in is what we can get. I’m not interested in those who say nothing can pass. For example, I think we can close the gun sale loopholes … I think we can tighten up our background checks and there are a number of things we can do.”
“Is there any one solution that would stop what happened in Newtown? No.”
This story was updated at 1:11 p.m.