Orrin Hatch: Gun Background Checks Could Destroy Liberty, Cause Persecution

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) heads to a weekly policy meeting at the Capitol on March 20, 2012 in
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) heads to a weekly policy meeting at the Capitol on March 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. The stage is being set for a fresh budget battle after the House GOP's plan was announced today amid calls from Democrats that their plan is already in place in the form of last year's Budget Control Act. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- Pursuing even the most popular of measures to curb gun violence would be a step toward destroying Americans' liberty, Sen. Orrin Hatch argued Thursday.

According to a string of polls, most gun owners favor the idea of universal background checks for gun purchases, and such a system was considered the most likely response to the horrifying rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But for Hatch (R-Utah), even that is a move toward tyranny.

"That's the way reductions in liberty occur," Hatch told reporters outside the Senate chamber. "When you start saying people all have to sign up for something, and they have a database where they know exactly who's who, and where government can persecute people because of the database, that alarms a lot of people in our country, and it flies in the face of liberty."

Hatch argued that the current system of background checks -- which excludes some 40 percent of gun transactions -- should be refined before Congress expands that system.

"We do have a check system, and it has worked whenever they really implement it," Hatch said. "I hesitate to go beyond that. Let's implement what we already have."

Hatch also said he didn't think a new assault weapons ban would pass the Senate, much less the GOP-controlled House, and he bridled at another popular idea to ban the sorts of high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in recent mass shootings.

"Most killings are not done with high-capacity -- so-called -- rifles," Hatch said. "This is an express provision in the Constitution, unlike the penumbras and other conjured-up provisions that aren't there that the court has come up with over the years. This is express, and many people are very, very concerned about any infringement on it, and I'm one of them.

"It's easy to blow these things out of proportion," he added, saying he was "concerned as anybody" about mass shootings such as the attacks in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. "But it's also not easy to stand up for the liberty rights of people that really are the basis for the Second Amendment to begin with."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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