LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Liane Hansen.
The House of Representatives reconvenes on Tuesday and its first order of business will be a postponed debate on repealing the new health care law. House GOP leaders set that contentious issue aside last week and held a day of bipartisan tributes for Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, wounded in last weeks shootings in Tucson that took the lives of six.
Some of Giffords' colleagues say it's now time to debate another issue. Reinstate the ban on large-capacity bullet magazines, like the one used by the suspect.
NPR's David Welna reports.
DAVID WELNA: Dozens of House members from both parties took turns praising Gabrielle Giffords during a day of tributes for her and the other victims of the Tucson shooting rampage.
California Democrat Jane Harman used her time at the podium, though, to suggest Congress actually do something.
Representative JANE HARMAN (Democrat, California): We should revisit sensible federal laws to control access to guns and ammunition. At a minimum, I believe we must promptly restore the expired federal ban on extended magazine clips.
WELNA: The ban that expired in 2004 made it illegal to either manufacture or sell ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. The weapon used in the Tucson rampage had a magazine with at least 30 rounds. It can take only about 10 seconds to fire that many bullets, one at a time.
The lawmaker who's leading the efforts to reinstate the ban on large-capacity magazines is New York Democrat Carolyn McCarthy. Seventeen years ago, it was another gunman using such magazines who killed McCarthy's husband and seriously wounded her son on the Long Island Railroad.
Representative CAROLYN MCCARTHY (Democrat, New York): What I'm trying to do is not take away the right of someone to own a gun, but just basically look at the large-capacity clips. And people have to remember that the gun that they use can still have a clip in it - 10 bullets and one in the chamber, that's 11 bullets. So if you're using it for self-defense at home, there's plenty of ammo there for them.
WELNA: McCarthy plans to reintroduce a bill this week that outlaws large-volume bullet magazines. For Texas Republican Kevin Brady, it's a lost cause.
Representative KEVIN BRADY (Republican, Texas): I'm not supportive of it and I don't think it will gain much traction in the House.
WELNA: Like Brady, Indiana Republican Mike Pence says what happened in Tucson should not be blamed on a public policy that needs fixing.
Representative MIKE PENCE (Republican, Indiana): I think what we had here was a despicable human being who engaged in a barbarous act against defenseless civilians and a deeply respected colleague. And I think we should focus on holding that individual to account.
WELNA: New Jersey Democrat Rush Holt, who's co-sponsoring McCarthy's bill, says to say Congress has no responsibility to act is naive.
Representative RUSH HOLT (Democrat, New Jersey): Yes, there are crazy people out there - all the more reason why we should have gun safety legislation.
WELNA: But it's not just Republicans putting the brakes on reinstating the high-capacity magazine ban. Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes says, as a former Border Patrol chief, he can see a point in such a ban.
Representative SILVESTRE REYES (Democrat, Texas): But I really don't think right now is the right time. We need to make sure that the political climate is settled, a little more settled than right after an attack on a member of Congress. You know, I just don't think it's going to go anywhere.
WELNA: Congresswoman McCarthy says there's a reason why so many of her fellow Democrats balk at tightening gun laws.
Rep. MCCARTHY: It's called the NRA. They have a lot of power down here. And a lot of members here are petrified of them, that they will basically go against them in an election and make that member lose.
WELNA: Asked to comment, the NRA, or National Rifle Association, demurred. At this time, it said in a statement, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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