Russell Simmons Urges Lawmakers to Pass Assault Weapons Ban

7:37 PM PST 02/26/2013 by Aaron Couch
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Extra
Russell Simmons

The Def Jam Records founder says he will do all he can to "end our epidemic of gun violence."

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons is throwing his support behind stricter gun control measures ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on a proposed assault weapons ban.

In an email Simmons wrote on behalf of the left-leaning Courage Campaign, he praised President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which Obama addressed the parents of slain Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton and said every victim of gun violence “deserves a vote.” Pendleton had performed at Obama’s inauguration shortly before her shooting death in Chicago.

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“I've thought long and hard about guns and their role in American society. I will do all I can to help pass common sense reform and end our epidemic of gun violence,” the Def Jam Records founder wrote.

Among the measures Simmons called for were a ban on assault weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and ensuring universal background checks by closing the so-called “gun show loophole."

He also called for a “federal database that fully utilizes modern technology to help law enforcement to pursue criminals who buy and sell illegal guns” and urged people to sign a petition supporting the ban. Previously, a number of conservative blogs have criticized Simmons' gun control views, citing lyrics by Def Jam artists such as Ludacris as evidence that Simmons has profited from music they say glorifies violence.

Introduced by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 is slated to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, though legislative maneuvering by Republicans could see the hearing delayed by up to a week. The bill is broader than the now-expired 2004 ban. It covers 160 specific military-style weapons and would limit ammunition clips to ten rounds or fewer.

In order to be considered by the full Senate, the bill would need to pass the committee of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans with a majority vote. Political observers expect it to be challenged by the National Rifle Association and Senate Republicans.

The bill is one of four gun control measures the committee is to consider, including legislation aimed at stopping gun trafficking, allocating funds for school safety, and implementing universal background checks.

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In his email, Simmons suggested that the Democrats on the committee should push the bill through unilaterally, writing that with “Democrats in charge, all of these measures should be approved by the Committee so that they get a full vote in the Senate.”

Largely a response to recent shootings, including in Newtown, Conn. last December, the interest in stricter gun legislation has been promoted by members of the entertainment industry including Piers MorganDustin Hoffman and Michael Moore.

Read Simmons’ full email below.

I don't know about you, Molly, but I was profoundly moved by President Obama's State of the Union address. Beginning with Hadiya Pendleton's parents, the president repeatedly declared that every victim of gun violence "deserves a vote" on major gun safety proposals.

I've thought long and hard about guns and their role in American society. I will do all I can to help pass common sense reform and end our epidemic of gun violence.

Join me and demand that the Senate Judiciary Committee follow the president's advice: vote on every major proposal and pass them all onto the full Senate.

Every piece of potential legislation to end gun violence will begin its journey through Congress in the Senate Judiciary Committee. As MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has said, "Whatever the Senate Democrats do on this issue will set the bar for Republicans in the House to compromise away from. You're never going to get any better."(1) The Committee has 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans, and passing legislation onto the the full Senate only requires a majority vote.

Tell Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee: Set the bar high and support the most ambitious gun safety legislation possible.

What should they include? Here's a start:

A ban on assault weapons.

A ban on high-capacity magazines.

Universal background checks by closing the private sale (gun show) loophole.

A federal database that fully utilizes modern technology to help law enforcement to pursue criminals who buy and sell illegal guns.

On Wednesday February 27, Sen. Dianne Feinstein will chair a hearing on the assault weapons ban before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings like this will help decide which legislation moves forward and which dies in committee. With Democrats in charge, all of these measures should be approved by the Committee so that they get a full vote in the Senate.

Don't let the NRA drown out your voice. Demand that Democratic Senators lead.

Yours in the fight to end gun violence,

Russell Simmons

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