Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | 9:47 a.m.
WASHINGTON — For the past several months, Sen. Harry Reid has mostly kept his own counsel when politicians, including some of his closest allies in Washington, have called for a new era in gun control.
But in the last week, Reid has been giving anyone with access to radio and basic cable a window into how he, personally, views guns, their dangers, and Congress’ responsibility to regulate them.
He’s recalled, alongside familiar narratives about his first 12-gauge shotgun and hunting trips with his brothers around Searchlight, Nevada tragedies, such as the deadly 2010 shooting at Las Vegas’ Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, and painful personal trials, such as the death of his father.
“Sometimes people in a fit of passion will purchase the handgun to do bad things with it,” Reid said. “Even as my dad did, kill themselves.”
“Waiting a few days helps,” Reid said. “Requiring a simple background check every time a gun is sold is common sense.”
Reid’s father, miner Harry Vincent Reid, committed suicide in 1972, when Reid was 32 and serving as lieutenant governor of Nevada.
A change to the gun laws such as what the Senate is considering this week may not have spared Reid’s father.
But it might have spared the life of Stanley Cooper of Sandy Valley, the 72-year-old courthouse security guard killed in 2010 with a gun shooter Johnny Lee Wicks purchased from an Arizona gun show in 2008, he said.
It remains possible to legally purchase a gun from a gun show without going through a background check.
The man who shot Cooper “was a convicted felon with no right to carry a firearm. He certainly couldn’t have passed a criminal background. But the shooter never had to get one,” Reid said.
Through mounting testimonials, Reid has set out a clear case for why he believes Congress should strengthen firearm background checks. But he has checked his speech before lending support to more far-reaching areas of gun-control legislation, such as bans on assault rifles or high-capacity magazines, which Democratic senators are expected to propose as amendments to the gun bill.
“Most gun owners are good, responsible people who love target shooting and hunting or want to protect their homes and families,” Reid said. “But we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and those who suffer from mental illnesses that make them a danger to themselves and others.”
Reid is expected to push forward with a bill to expand background checks — to which he has said senators will be welcome to offer all manner of relevant amendments — this week.