Senate Judiciary Committee to focus on gun violence, immigration reform and privacy

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Gun violence, immigration reform and privacy are expected to be among the key issues addressed in upcoming weeks by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, announced in a speech Wednesday at Georgetown University Law Center that in two weeks the Senate committee will “begin examining possible remedies for tragedies like last month’s shootings in Newtown.”

“The questions we face about our national gun policy extend beyond the tragic results of mass murder; they extend to how we care for those with mental illness, how we manage the exposure of children to violence in popular media, and simple matters of gun safety,” said Leahy.

The hearings would be the first of several, he said.

“In our hearings, we will ensure an open forum for a constructive discussion about how we can better protect our communities from mass shootings, while respecting the fundamental right to bear arms recognized by the Supreme Court,” he said.

“Like many other gun owners, I believe that we should strengthen our federal laws to combat gun trafficking and ensure that those seeking to purchase guns do so with background checks — but this is only part of what is needed,” he said.

“As President Obama has made clear, no single step can end this kind of violence. But the fact that we cannot do everything that could help should not paralyze us from doing anything that can help,” said Leahy.

Leahy became the center of controversy in late 2012 over a report that behind closed doors he was planning on eliminating the need for law enforcement to obtain a warrant when monitoring electronic communications — a charge which his office vigorously denied.

The Senate ultimately voted to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), allowing the continuation of warrantless surveillance by the federal government, a bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid argued was more important than Christmas.

“FISA, this is an important piece of legislation as imperfect as it is, it is necessary to protect us from the evil in this world,” Reid said on the Senate floor a week before Christmas.

“But Christmas is not more important than this legislation,” he continued. “I hope I’m not offending anyone, but it isn’t.”

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