Raw grief echoed through the hearing room as the distraught father of a Yale University student shot to death last month haltingly asked Congress to toughen gun control laws.
"To all of the handgun sports enthusiasts in this world, I only wish that you had an opportunity to know Christian Prince," Edward M. Prince told a House Judiciary subcommittee as tears streamed down his face.Christian Haley Prince, 19, was killed on campus during a robbery as he walked home from a party Feb. 16.
His father and sister, Jackie, urged Congress on Thursday to pass the so-called Brady Bill, which would require a seven-day wait on handgun purchases so police could check the background of prospective buyers.
The legislation is named for James S. Brady, who was shot in the head by John Hinckley in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan. Brady, who nearly died, remains seriously disabled.
Congressional Democrats have predicted the bill will pass this year despite Bush administration opposition.
"How many tragedies does it take to change political priorities or can good common sense put individual rights in proper perspective?" Prince asked, choking out the last few words.
Prince, an attorney, argued that the Second Amendment does not preclude passage of gun control measures. It states: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
"Was that a well-regulated militia that killed my son?" he asked. ". . . There is only one infringement in this instance - namely, the infringement of Christian Prince's right to life, liberty and property."
The Second Amendment concerns keeping and bearing arms, not acquiring them, he added.
"Common sense can't be quelled forever - not even at gunpoint," said Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the crime subcommittee. "That is why members of Congress are changing their votes."
Brady noted he was shot on March 30, 1981.
"Since that day, over 200,000 men, women and children have been killed in America's gun war," Brady said. "More than Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf combined. And the war goes on."
Justice Department official Paul McNulty told the panel the administration still opposes the Brady Bill.
"We think it's ineffective," he said. "To use a harsher word, it's useless."