And certainly, improving the background -- the data about mental health adjudications, not just a psychiatrist recommendation or something like that, but what due process and the Constitution require, which is an adjudication, a fair decision by a neutral decision-maker. Getting those into the background check system is something that Congress started working on after Virginia Tech, and there’s -- there’s more progress to be made.
But that’s -- it’s not just a matter of checks. It’s -- even if you have the most ideal check system in the world, at the least -- and imagine these criminals, violently insane criminals could never get a gun anywhere else. You know, Adam Lanza at Newtown didn’t have background checks. He stole the guns after murdering his mother.
So, the long-term solution is not just about background checks. It’s about why are these people on the streets in the first place. All of these killers I’ve just mentioned could have been civilly committed under the civil commitment laws we had several decades ago. Those laws were changed. Sometimes -- because they were sometimes abused, but I think we can move back to a more sensible position that strongly protects the due process rights of people against involuntary commitment, but also gets dangerous people off the streets. And that will cost money at the state level, but it’s money that will be greatly saved in the long term through reduced incarceration costs for crimes.
Ms. Trotter, your testimony discussed the need for women to be able to use firearms to defend themselves and their families. The law currently permits the lawful possession of semi-automatic rifles such as AR-15s. Can you tell us why you believe a semi-automatic rifle such as AR-15 has value as a weapon of self-defense? And does banning weapons -- banning guns which feature designed to improve accuracy disproportionately burden women?
TROTTER: I believe it does. Young women are speaking out as to why AR-15 weapons are their weapon of choice. The guns are accurate. They have good handling. They’re light. They’re easy for women to whole. And most importantly, their appearance. An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon. And the peace of mind that a woman has as she’s facing three, four, five violent attackers, intruders in her home with her children screaming in the background -- the peace of mind that she has knowing that she has a scary-looking gun gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened violent criminals.
And if we ban these types of assault weapons, you are putting women at a great disadvantage, more so than men, because they do not have the same type of physical strength and opportunity to defend themselves in a hand-to-hand struggle. And they’re -- they’re not criminals. They’re moms. They’re young women. And they’re not used to violent confrontations.
So, I absolutely urge -- I -- I speak on behalf of millions of American women across the country who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourself.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
LEAHY: Thank you.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. And I want to thank everybody for being here, particularly our witnesses. Even you, Mr. LaPierre -- it’s good to see you again.
I guess we tangled...
LAPIERRE: We have.
FEINSTEIN: ... we tangled, what was it? Eighteen years ago. You look pretty good, actually.
LEAHY: I will give a little prerogative to the laughter.
FEINSTEIN: I’d like to add something to the record, Mr. Chairman -- page 44 of the Department of Justice report, “Assault Weapons As A Percentage of Gun -- of Gun Traces,” which shows a 70 percent decline from ‘92-’93 to 2001-2002.
LEAHY: Without objection, so ordered.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Chief Johnson, I’d like to talk with you. First of all, I am very grateful for the support of your organization, of the major chiefs, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as well as trauma surgeons who see what these guns do in tearing apart bodies.
FEINSTEIN: I have become very concerned as I looked at the bill before, in ‘93, at the technological improvement in these weapons over this -- these years. And one of the things that we’ve tried to do in this new bill is prevent that from happening in the future. In looking at the AR-15 magazine on a device, which is legal, called a slide fire, I note that with practice, a shooter may control his rate of fire from 400 to 800 rounds per minute, or shoot two, three, or four rounds at a time, and just as easily fire single shots. So this is a weapon, and I think Ms. Trotter’s right, it apparently is versatile. It apparently is rather easy to use, but it has tremendous philosophy -- velocity, and tremendous killing power,and I suspect tears young bodies apart.