U.S. Sen. Dick Blumenthal wants to run background checks on people before they buy bullets, and he wants to check the background of Chuck Hagel before he becomes Secretary of Defense.
Blumenthal made those positions clear on Thursday afternoon when he showed up in New Haven for an unrelated press event at Start Community Bank on Whalley Avenue.
Click the play arrow to hear his comments.
Blumenthal weighed in on a couple of trending topics in Washington D.C.: The nomination of former Nebraska U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to the position of defense secretary, and efforts to curb gun violence in the wake of the horrific shooting of 20 schoolchildren last month in Newtown.
Hagel has come under fire from—mostly Republican—critics for not being a sufficiently strong supporter of Israel or of sanctions against Iran, and for being anti-gay.
Blumenthal, who sits on the Committee on Armed Services, said he’s not yet made up his mind about Hagel’s nomination. He said he has a number of “tough questions” to ask the former senator before he approves the nomination.
“The president is entitled to respect in selecting his team, but I’m reserving judgment until I have a chance to ask these tough questions and determine whether he is in sync with the president, whether he differs from positions I’ve taken, how important those differences are,” Blumenthal said.
“I think as secretary of defense, he will have enormous responsibility for reducing the number of our troops, for realigning their function and mission to be more agile, smaller. Special operations will be enormously important,” Blumenthal said.
“As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I have a responsibility to know what he thinks about building submarines—two submarines a year, which I think is important—about how we maintain our air superiority, about how we keep our country safe in a world where cyber-attack and terrorism are increasingly threats.”
Blumenthal also spoke about a bill he plans to introduce later this month that would require instant background checks for bullet sales.
“I want to see background checks for ammunition purchases, just as is required for firearms purchases,” Blumenthal said. “Right now, certain categories of people—fugitives, felons, drug addicts, people who are under protective orders as a result of domestic violence abuse—all are barred from buying both firearms and ammunition. But background checks are done only for the firearms purchases. You can walk into Walmart, buy a shopping cart full of ammunition, pay for it, walk out without any questions asked. I think there should be background checks when those purchases are made.
“And I also think there should be reporting of large-scale purchases of ammunition—a thousand rounds or more—so that local and state and even federal authorities have some idea when there are very sizable purchases.”
Blumenthal addressed criticisms of his plan from hunters, who have said the measure will only make life harder for law-abiding gun owners:
“There’s no prohibition against buying any amount of ammunition, just a reporting requirement. Second, anybody who has a hunter’s license, or a pistol permit, has already been through a background check and would not be required to do another one. Third, these background checks are with the national instant background criminal system ... It takes less than 30 seconds to do it ... It’s virtually instantaneous and the cost to the purchaser is zero.”