News Column

Hinojosa Backs Gun-control Proposals

Jan. 17, 2013

Jared Janes

U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa
U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa

U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa said he backs some of the biggest gun safety proposals unveiled Wednesday by President Barack Obama.

Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, said he supports reinstituting bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and wants to require criminal background checks for all gun sales. Hinojosa said those proposals must be passed to "prevent the tragic mass shootings that continue to plague our nation."

"I know many people from my district who are responsible gun owners," Hinojosa said in a statement released Wednesday. "I believe in our right to bear arms, but I also believe in being more responsible in our laws when it comes to the purchase of certain types of guns and the amount of ammunition."

Obama revealed the proposals in Washington on Wednesday, a month after the schoolchildren massacre in Newtown, Conn. Pressing Congress to pass the broad measures to ban the assault rifles and magazines, Obama also signed 23 executive orders, including measures to order federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, to appoint a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.

The plan was widely panned by Republican leadership in Texas. Gov. Rick Perry said few of the president's recommendations have anything to do with the shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"In fact, the piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing agenda that would not have saved those children, disgusts me, personally," Perry said in a statement. "The second amendment to the Constitution is a basic right of free people and cannot be nor will it be abridged by the executive power of this or any other president."

Hinojosa's support for Obama's proposal is in line with his voting record on gun rights. The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby group whose candidate ratings and endorsements are closely watched, graded Hinojosa as a "D" before last year's election, according to a New York Times infographic. Hinojosa's NRA rating was the lowest for any U.S. House member from Texas outside of four Democrats who represent urban districts.

The rating system, based on voting records in Congress, did not account for an October campaign debate where Hinojosa briefly blanked on the Second Amendment before recovering to say the NRA's "black list" wouldn't prevent him from supporting background checks and assault rifle bans.

The office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo -- who according to The Times received an "A-" -- did not release a statement Wednesday. The recently elected U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, received an "A" for his response to the NRA's questionnaire used in place of a voting record, according to The Times.

Vela, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, told The Brownsville Herald before he took office that the government should be cautious when dealing with gun control measures.

"To me the question really isn't one about gun control," Vela said earlier this month. "The question is: What are we going to do to prevent the kind of tragedies we've seen?"

Vela said then that the U.S. must develop a "very carefully thought out plan" for dealing with mental health care but also said he was not supportive of proposals to allow teachers to carry handguns.

Hinojosa said Wednesday that schools could be made safer by providing students with more school resource officers and counselors and by enacting safety and emergency response plans.

"One of the most important aspects that we have found in these recent tragedies is the issue of mental health and the use of guns," Hinojosa said. "We must help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment that they need."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Source: (c)2013 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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