AG nominee urges better focus on stopping mentally ill from buying guns

President Donald Trump's choice to be U.S. Attorney General told Senators on Tuesday that he favors stronger measures by the federal government to insure that people who suffer from mental illness are not able to purchase firearms in the future, arguing that would be the simplest way to strengthen efforts to stop gun violence in America.

"The problem of our time is to get an effective system in place that can keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people," Attorney General nominee William Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"That should be priority number one, and it's going to take some hard work," Barr said, as the former Attorney General for President George H.W. Bush made clear that while he's no advocate for gun control, something must be done when it comes to mental health and gun purchases.

"There is room for reasonable regulation," Barr said, even as he praised the Heller decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, which reinforced the right of people to own a firearm for self-defense.

In questioning from Senators of both parties on guns, Barr endorsed the basics of what are known as 'Red Flag laws,' which allow family members or police to go to court in a bid to take guns away from someone who could be a danger.

While Barr made clear his support for the Second Amendment, some gun rights supporters object to "Red Flag" laws, worried that it will lead to more gun seizures than backers advertise.

"Let's get down to the real problem we're confronting, which is keeping these weapons out of the hands of people who are mentally ill," Barr said, shrugging off much of the debate over guns.

Under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and then Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Barr rejected the idea of a new ban on assault weapons, saying the current instant background check system must have more information from state and federal sources when it comes to mental health questions.

"All the rest of this stuff is really esssential just rhetoric until we get that problem dealt with," Barr added.

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