By Mike Lillis - 01/25/11 01:50 AM EST
The 20-year-old intern credited with saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is urging President Obama to support tougher gun laws in response to the deadly Arizona shootings.
Daniel Hernandez, the intern who rushed to treat Giffords (D-Ariz.) after she was shot Jan. 8 in Tucson, is endorsing a new proposal from Mayors Against Illegal Guns that will require states to report mental-health cases to a federal database designed to screen gun purchases.
“It is my hope that President Obama and Congress will work together right away to reform our gun background-check system so that all records of dangerous people are in the system and all gun buyers will have to pass a thorough background check,” Hernandez said Monday in a statement.
Such changes should “be done in a way that does not infringe on Second Amendment rights,” he added, “so that responsible citizens may exercise their right to bear arms.”
A number of other prominent Arizona figures, including Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D), are backing the proposal.
Although Obama was a vocal supporter of gun control on the campaign trail, he’s gone largely silent on the topic since entering the White House — a capitulation to the political difficulties of moving Second Amendment restrictions. Yet gun-control advocates say the Arizona shootings provide the president with the right opportunity to return to the issue, while the State of the Union offers the perfect platform to pitch his proposals to the public.
“When these types of tragedies happen we don’t want them to be in vain, we want to see something good from them,” said Peter Read, the father of 19-year-old Mary Read, who was killed during the 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. “There’s nothing like the president of the United States making an unequivocal statement on gun control to give the issue momentum.”
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Control Gun Violence, agreed. “He needs to use the bully pulpit more on the gun issue,” Helmke said. “There’s no bigger bully pulpit than the State of the Union.”
So far, the White House has given no indication whether Obama would broach the gun-reform issue in Tuesday’s high-profile speech. Asked that question Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs punted.
“There’ll be a number of [gun-reform] proposals that this White House and the Congress will evaluate,” Gibbs said, “[but] we’ll wait until tomorrow to see what’s in the State of the Union.”
The White House did not respond to requests for further comment
The Tucson shooting left six people dead — including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge — and 13 injured, including Giffords. The Arizona Democrat is now undergoing rehabilitation in Houston.
The primary suspect in the Arizona shootings, Jared Lee Loughner, had been expelled from a local community college for behavioral problems and denied a spot in the military for a history of drug abuse, according to numerous reports. Yet in November he was able to buy a firearm with a magazine holding more than 30 bullets — the same gun he allegedly used in the attack.
Loughner on Monday pleaded not guilty to three charges of attempted murder.
Since the Arizona shooting, a handful of lawmakers have offered proposals designed to prevent similar incidents.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) last week introduced legislation to ban high-capacity magazines like those allegedly used in the Arizona shooting. Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, has plans to offer a bill preventing people from carrying guns within 1,000 feet of high-profile government officials, including members of Congress. And Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday introduced legislation requiring newly unlicensed gun dealers to continue performing background checks on prospective buyers — something not required under current law.