Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] spoke before Congress on Wednesday urging [text] them to pass gun control legislation. In a hearing [materials] before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary [official website], Holder requested that Congress consider universal background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and military style weapons. He also suggested passing tougher penalties for weapons trafficking. Holder is echoing President Barack Obama's and Vice President Joe Biden's calls for "common-sense" measures of restricting access to guns in order to prevent further gun violence. He also called upon the Senate to confirm Todd Jones as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Gun control has long been a contentious issue in the United States. The constitutionality of an assault weapons ban was recently discussed [JURIST op-ed] by JURIST guest columnist Nicholas Johnson of the Fordham University School of Law. Earlier this month, the Maryland Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] that would make it harder to get a gun license. In mid-January, on the one-month anniversary of the Newtown shooting, Obama announced his signing of 23 executive orders [JURIST report] intended to strengthen existing gun laws, as well as urging Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. The previous day New York Governor Andrew Cuomo [official website] signed legislation [JURIST report] intended to impose tighter restrictions on gun and ammunition sales, banning any magazine that can hold more than seven rounds and implementing instant background checks on all ammunition purchases at the time of sale.