Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. waded into the political battle over efforts to reform the nation's gun laws on Friday, calling on Congress to make the "tough" votes to enact new laws that the White House proposed this week.
Holder, during a speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Washington, also defended the 23 executive actions President Barack Obama took on Wednesday. Those included actions aimed at improving the national background check system and ending the virtual "freeze" on non-partisan research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control.
Several members of Congress have questioned the whether Obama's executive orders overstepped his role and treaded on legislative powers.
"Now, let me be clear," Holder said. "Let me be very clear: Not one of the executive orders – contrary to what a few have said – impinges upon anyone's Second Amendment rights or is inconsistent with the historical use of executive power."
When he called the votes to enact Obama's proposals tough, Holder paused and repeated "huh, tough votes," implying that he didn’t think the decision should be too difficult. “There come times when those of us who are in elected or appointed positions must put the interests of those we are privileged to serve above that which might be politically expedient or professionally safe,” Holder said. "This is one of those times."
Holder said he and the White House has called upon Congress to renew legislation to take these actions: ban high-capacity magazines, including those used in recent high-profile mass shootings; ban armor-piercing bullets; enact a new assault weapons ban, updated and stronger than the one enacted in 1994, to keep military-style weapons off of our streets; and stiffen penalties on the gun traffickers who help funnel weapons to dangerous criminals.
Holder said he worked closely with Vice President Joe Biden and representatives from more than 200 groups of experts, advocacy organizations, policymakers, and private citizens to help formulate the plan.
"These measures represent essential parts of any serious, serious, comprehensive effort to eradicate gun violence – and today, I join President Obama, Vice President Biden, and countless Americans in urging Congressional leaders to adopt them without delay," Holder said.
"I'm confident that we can – and will – make significant strides in reducing the violence that too often fills our headlines and afflicts our communities," Holder said.