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Local politics


Donnelly supports tighter gun checks

Senator among key votes targeted by mayors’ group ads


– Media have described U.S. senators from Indiana as being “on the fence” regarding federal legislation that would require nearly universal background checks for gun buyers.

One of them jumped off Tuesday.

“I am supportive of background checks,” Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said in response to media questions after a business roundtable discussion at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce.

“I want to make sure that people with, say, a felony or dealing with mental illness cannot get their hands on weapons that can cause so much destruction,” he said. “And so we’re trying to put together a piece of legislation that will reflect that.”

Asked whether he backs background checks at gun shows, Donnelly said, “Yes.”

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires instant criminal background checks on prospective customers of federally licensed gun dealers.

Sales involving private sellers are exempt, including those at gun shows.

Indiana is among 13 states where TV advertisements are urging viewers to tell their congressmen to vote in favor of comprehensive background checks. The $12 million ad campaign is being waged by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns, whose members include Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.

A news release issued Tuesday by the group identified 15 senators as key votes, including Donnelly and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.

Coats sounds as if he is still on the fence. Tara DiJulio, his communications director, said Tuesday in an email that Coats is waiting to see details of the final legislation.

“Coats remains concerned that many of the current proposals infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners and would not prevent deranged individuals from committing acts of violence,” DiJulio said.

“Coats also believes that more should be done to enforce existing laws on background checks.”

The Senate is expected to consider gun-control measures after it returns to session April 9 after a two-week recess.

Donnelly had said in January he is receptive to background checks but declined at the time to say whether gun shows should be included.

Asked how he felt about being targeted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Donnelly said with a laugh, “I’ve just spent six months in a campaign where I was targeted every day on television, so it’s just like, who’s next?”

He was referring to the run-up to his Nov. 6 election victory over Republican Richard Mourdock to replace Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said in a statement about the ad campaign: “Here in Indiana, responsible gun owners value the 2nd Amendment and know that Mayor Bloomberg’s knee-jerk reactions on everything from sodas to firearms aren’t going to solve the problem.”

Stutzman is chairman of the Second Amendment Initiative, a caucus of Republican House members who want to preserve gun rights.

In its news release, Mayors Against Illegal Guns cited a January poll it commissioned indicating 89 percent of Indiana voters support background checks for all gun buyers.

One ad by Mayors Against Illegal Guns depicts a shotgun-carrying, self-described hunter talking about his support for comprehensive background checks for gun buyers.

Washington Times blogger Ken Shepherd pointed out that the hunter in the ad is violating three rules of gun safety by holding the shotgun in a horizontal position rather than pointing its barrel at the sky or the ground, placing his finger on the trigger and having closed the bolt indicator so there is no way to tell whether the shotgun is loaded.