South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn got into a heated exchange over the issue of gun prosecutions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, drawing applause from the audience and a rebuke from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
“When almost 80,000 people fail a background check and 44 people are prosecuted, what kind of deterrent is that?” the Republican senator asked at one point, referring to statistics from 2010. “If it’s such an important issue, why are we not prosecuting people who fail background check[s]?”
“How many cases have you made?” Mr. Graham asked Mr. Flynn.
“You know what? It doesn’t matter,” the police chief said. “I want to stop 76,000 people from buying guns illegally — that’s what a background check does.”
After the line drew some applause from the audience, Mrs. Feinstein, California Democrat, admonished the crowd not to express support for either side. The hearing was on Ms. Feinstein’s bill that would ban so-called assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Mr. Graham acknowledged that funding is threadbare in many police departments across the country, but asked again how many cases Mr. Flynn made for people failing background checks.
“We don’t make those cases, senator — I have priorities,” Mr. Flynn said. “We make gun cases. We make 2,000 gun cases a year, senator. That’s our priority. … We’re trying to prevent the wrong people [from] buying guns.”
Mr. Graham responded by saying one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that the background check system and the laws already on the books should work properly.
“I guess the point is if we don’t want the wrong people to own guns, which we all agree, the one way to do that is to take the system that’s supposed to make the distinction between a person who should and shouldn’t and enforce it,” he said. “I own an AR-15. I passed a background check.”