WASHINGTON - Sen. Bill Nelson called for quick action on "common-sense" gun control measures Thursday.
Speaking on the Senate floor, the Orlando Democrat touted his background as a hunter and gun-owner in pushing for greater restrictions. He said he supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms but believes last month's shooting at a Connecticut elementary school by a gunman using a Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle should spur action.
Nelson called for criminal background checks every time a gun is purchased, and a ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds. And he wants to revive the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.
"Are these guns for hunting or are they for killing?" Nelson said. "And the legitimate answer is, they're not for hunting. They're for killing. That's what they were designed for: as an assault-type weapon in a combat circumstance."
Last week, President Barack Obama unveiled a broad program to reduce gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, background checks on all gun-buyers, and greater spending on mental health services.
It's not clear when Congress will take those issues up, but lawmakers aren't expected to approve the more controversial elements.
The National Rifle Association opposes most of the president's proposals, especially the ban on assault weapons, calling them unconstitutional intrusions.
"We believe we deserve and have every right to the same level of freedom that our government leaders keep for themselves, and the same capabilities and same technologies that criminals use to prey upon us and our families, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said Tuesday. "That means we believe in our right to defend ourselves and our families with semi-automatic technology."
In his floor speech, Nelson dismissed the NRA as an "extremist" organization that's not willing to compromise.
"(This) is not the same NRA that grew up representing the interests of hunters and sportsmen," he said. "It has become an advocacy group for gun manufacturers that want to sell more of their products."
Ledyard King, Tallahassee Democrat