WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- House Democrats have made a 180-degree turn on U.S. gun safety, going from no hearings when they ran the House to calling on Republicans to examine gun laws.
Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee said in January it was "imperative" for the committee's Republican leaders to examine gun-safety laws following the Arizona shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., The Hill reported. Yet, when Democrats controlled the panel's schedule two years ago, gun reform never got an official hearing.
The Arizona shooting changed the political landscape and ramped up the Democrats' desire to re-examine the nation's gun laws, The Hill said. In a Jan. 27 letter, the 16 Judiciary Committee Democrats urged Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to schedule gun-safety hearings in response to the Tucson incident.
"We fully recognize and appreciate the sensitivity of the subjects raised by the recent tragedy in Tucson in which our colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and eighteen others were wounded or killed," the letter read. "However, we also believe it is not only possible, but imperative that Congress review the relevant issues in a civil and objective (manner)."
Smith rejected the Democrats' request last week, saying the event could weaken the case against the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.
"(To) undertake such a review in the context of the tragic shooting in Arizona, as the minority suggests, could have the unintended effect of prejudicing the ongoing criminal proceedings against Loughner in which his mental status is likely to be a key issue," Smith said.
Instead, Smith arranged for the FBI to brief committee staffers on how effective a federal database is when screening gun purchases for prohibited buyers.