Hoyer: Gun controls could have saved 'a lot of lives' in Arizona

Legislation banning high-capacity ammunition clips could have saved “a lot of lives” in Arizona this month, a top House Democrat said Tuesday.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that high-capacity clips like those allegedly used in the Arizona shooting have essentially one purpose: “Taking a lot of lives quickly.

“Had [the shooter] had a 12 clip — a 12-capacity clip — there might have been a lot of lives saved,” Hoyer said.

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Police have charged a lone gunman in the Jan. 8 rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and injured 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). The shooter allegedly used an extended clip capable of holding 33 bullets, instead of the standard 15-bullet clip that comes with the Glock 19 handgun.

Gun-control advocates on and off Capitol Hill have argued that a ban on high-capacity clips would have forced the shooter to reload sooner, perhaps lessening the carnage seen in the tragedy. The gun lobby and its supporters have opposed such proposals, however, maintaining they infringe on Second Amendment rights to gun ownership and self-protection.

On Tuesday, Rep. Carolyn McCarthyCarolyn McCarthyWhy Congress needs an openly atheist member, now Lobbying World Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation limiting ammunition magazines to 10 bullets — a provision of the 1993 assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004.

“We need comprehensive reform to reduce the number of people hurt or killed by gunfire in America, but one simple way we can do that is by keeping the worst tools of mass murder away from the general public,” said McCarthy, whose husband was killed and son seriously injured in a 1993 shooting on a Long Island commuter train. 

“It is a small sacrifice that law-abiding gun owners can make once again in order to increase everyone’s safety.”

A national poll conducted for CNN last week by Opinion Research Corp. found that 61 percent of voters favor a ban on ammunition clips holding more than 10 bullets. 

Most Republicans on Capitol Hill are opposed to stricter gun laws.

“Our constitutional right to bear arms does not create a society without risks of violent crime, and neither would the strictest gun-control laws,” Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) wrote Monday in an op-ed for The Hill. “Guns and violence are a fact of life. The question is whether it is preferable to be defenseless while waiting for the police, or to have the option to arm yourself. We certainly know criminals prefer the former.”

Hoyer — who supports both McCarthy’s bill and a return of the broader assault-weapons ban — said the Arizona shooting will heighten the gun-control debate on Capitol Hill, but didn't appear optimistic that any reform proposals could move through a Republican-controlled House.

“I don't know whether they're going to gain traction in the House,” Hoyer said. “There will be added interest. We'll see what the Republicans do.”