U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation toughening requirements for purchasing ammunition.
The bill, which comes in the wake of the Newtown school shooting that claimed 26 lives, would require retailers to use an FBI database to conduct background checks on anyone who buys bullets. It would also require retailers to report to law enforcement when someone purchases more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and it would extend an existing ban on bullets capable of piercing body armor.
“It simply extends the existing background check system to categories of people who are barred by law from making these purchases,” Blumenthal said.
Currently, it is illegal to sell both firearms and ammunition to certain groups, including felons, fugitives, drug addicts, the mentally ill, and domestic violence perpetrators. Background checks are required for the sale of firearms, but not for the sale of ammunition.
Blumenthal’s legislation would require all buyers of ammunition to undergo an instant background check and close what he called a “loophole” in the current law.
Anticipating there will be complaints about the additional time it may take to purchase ammunition, Blumenthal said the background check takes about 30 seconds. He said it’s either an electronic entry or a phone call. He said individuals who own firearms and have a permit can use that permit to purchase ammunition.
“What I’m hearing from people who are hunters or recreational shooters or NRA members is: We don’t want the bad guys to be buying guns or ammunition,” Blumenthal said. “It’s not like gun owners are in favor of wanton killings. They are strong law enforcement supporters and I think they’ll welcome this idea.”
Blumenthal, who has spent a lot of time in Newtown lately, said he anticipates a lot of the victims’ families will be strong supporters of the legislation, even if none of them are ready just yet to speak out about the issue.
But there is no “single solution to gun violence,” Blumenthal conceded, adding that preventing future mass killings will take a sustained effort.
“One of the most common observations about these mass atrocities is that public opinion peaks and it seems to subside as time passes,” he said during a conference call with reporters in Connecticut and Washington.
Sustaining the current moment will be one of the biggest challenges, Blumenthal said.
The legislation was offered as part of a larger effort to get rid of gun violence in this country.
Vice President Joseph Biden is in charge of a task force that will make recommendations to President Barack Obama prior to his State of the Union address later this month.
Blumenthal said he’s not presuming the administration will support his proposal, but he thinks it’s an important part of the conversation. He said he doesn’t have co-sponsors at this time, but said he will seek them before he introduces the bill in late January.
As far as cost is concerned, Blumenthal estimated his proposal would cost about $5 million.
“I know we don’t tend to talk about millions these days in Washington, but that amount as you know is pretty small in comparison to the total federal budget,” Blumenthal said. “The cost is negligible especially compared to the potential benefits.”
The legislation would possibly prevent large amounts of ammunition from getting into the wrong hands, he said.
Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman, was able to shoot hundreds of bullets before taking his own life, according to police. The guns Lanza used belonged to his mother, who he killed before heading to the school on Dec. 14 where he killed 20 children and six educators.
Blumenthal announced the legislation on the second anniversary of the shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The gunman killed six people and left Giffords critically injured.
Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who met privately with victims’ families last week in Newtown, used the second anniversary to launch a campaign called Americans for Responsible Solutions.
The website invites individuals to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention and seeks to raise funds necessary to “balance the influence of the gun lobby.”