Conservative group to score gun-control amendment to Senate cybersecurity bill

A leading conservative think-tank has threatened to score a gun-reform proposal that could hit the Senate floor this week.

The Heritage Foundation said the measure to ban high-capacity ammunition clips — proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) as an amendment to the Senate's cybersecurity bill — "may infringe" on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The group's lobbying arm is urging lawmakers to kill the proposal.

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"The Lautenberg amendment may functionally ban a number of handguns, including smaller handguns that are often used for self defense, and therefore the amendment raises serious constitutional questions," Heritage Action wrote Tuesday in an email blast. 

"Should Congress decide to proceed," the group added, "then the serious constitutional questions at stake demand that Congress must at a minimum hold further constitutional hearings and investigations rather than rushing to regulate." 

Lautenberg has been a long-time proponent of tougher gun laws, including measures to ban assault rifles and high-capacity clips. His latest push was fueled by this month's mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman stormed a packed movie theater and opened fire indiscriminately, killing 12 and injuring 58.

The suspect in that case, James Holmes, 24, allegedly used a military-style semi-automatic rifle and a 100-round ammunition magazine, leading gun reformers on and off Capitol Hill to amplify their concerns that such tools are inappropriate for civilian use.

"If you get a 100-round clip you're not shooting deer, you're hunting people," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told The Hill last week.

Conservative lawmakers and the gun lobby disagree, arguing that Americans have the right to keep such tools both for protection and recreation. Furthermore, they say that using the emotionally charged Aurora massacre to craft policy is inappropriate.

"Passing a potentially unconstitutional amendment in response to a tragic incident undermines the rights of every American," Heritage Action wrote Tuesday.

The group has little to fear from this Congress, as the leaders of both chambers — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — have both dismissed the notion of passing tougher gun laws in the wake of the Aurora tragedy.

Still, that hasn't dissuaded congressional gun reformers from urging tougher laws — a push which, they hope, will at least force a national debate about the effectiveness of current safeguards. 

No constitutional amendment, the reformers argue, is without its limitations.

"Certainly the right believes in anti-pornography laws. That's a limitation on the First Amendment," Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said last week. "No amendment is absolute or our society would be tied in a complete knot."

Also endorsing Lautenberg's amendment are Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Schumer.

The Senate is continuing its debate on the cybersecurity bill Tuesday, but no votes on the measure are expected before Thursday.