(CNSNews.com) - "In 1994, you said that gun control is a dead end," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told Attorney General-nominee William Barr at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
"Do you still believe that prudent controls on weapons won't reduce violent crime?" Feinstein, a staunch gun control advocate, asked him.
"I think that 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," Barr replied.
That is -- should be priority number one. And it's going to take some hard work. And we need to get on top of the problem. We need to come up with agreed-to standards that are prohibitors of people who are mentally ill. We have to put the resources in to get the system built up the way we did many years ago on the felon records and so forth.
We have to get the system working. And as I say, it's sort of piecemeal a little bit right now. We need to really get some energy behind it and get it done.
And I also think we need to push along the ERPOs (Extreme Risk Protection Orders), so we have these red flag laws to supplement the use of the background check to find out if someone has some mental disturbance. This is the single most important thing I think we can do in the gun control area to stop these massacres from happening in the first place.
Later, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) asked Barr to update Congress on his view of the Second Amendment.
Barr said that even before the Supreme Court's 2008 Heller decision, which upheld the individual right to bear arms, he believed that was so.
"I personally concluded that the Second Amendment creates a personal right under the Constitution," Barr said.
It's based on the Lockean notion of the right of self-preservation. It's tied to that. And I was glad that -- to see Heller come out and vindicate that initial view that I had. And so there's no question under Heller that the right to have weapons is -- firearms, is protected under the Second Amendment and is a personal right. At the same time, there's room for reasonable regulation.
And you know, from my standpoint, what I would look for is -- in assessing a regulation is, what's the burden on law-abiding people? And is it proportionate to whatever benefit in terms of safety and effectiveness will be conferred?
As I said just a moment ago, 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. And I think all the rest of this stuff is really essentially rhetoric until we really get that problem dealt with, in terms of regulatory approaches.