Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) initiated a frontal assault on the basic premises of the proposed assault weapons ban, going after witness and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, whose retaliatory outburst drew boisterous applause from the public gallery, briefly disturbing order in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee is currently holding its third hearing on gun regulation since the Sandy Hook Massacre.
Graham began by asking Chief Flynn how many crimes are committed with rifles. Flynn said he did not know, and Graham cut him off: “In 2011 it was 2.5% of [gun] crimes … twice as many people were killed with bare hands.” Then he moved on to his main point, the paucity of gun prosecutions, less than fifty verdicts reached, despite many tens of thousands of cases. “Clearly your focus is not prosecuting people who fail background checks,” Graham asserted. “When almost 80,000 people fail background checks but only 44 are prosecuted, what kind of deterrent is that?”
After repeatedly attempting to interject that “paper chases” are not his responsibility, Chief Flynn lost his patience: “I want to stop 70,000 people from buying guns illegally — that is what a background check does!” There was a burst of applause from the public gallery, which appears to be composed mostly of gun control advocates, including survivors of mass shootings at Virginia Tech and elsewhere.
Feinstein asked for order, admonishing against expressions of support “one way or another.” Graham segued into a side point about budget cuts, noting that citizens may have to increasingly fend for themselves after confirming that the chief’s budget is set to decline. After the major point was hammered further, the police chief said that prosecutions are not his role: “We don’t chase paper, we chase armed criminals.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke next, providing a more placid counterpoint. He stated his agreement with Graham’s points, but would add an expansion of gun regulations. One or two members of the gallery applauded softly.