Senate GOP leader defends AR-15 as useful for shooting prairie dogs

One of the top GOP leaders in congress argued semi-automatic weapons should remain legal as a varmint control tool

South Dakota Senator Whip John Thune (R) told CNN Tuesday that the deadly assault rifles should remain legal so people in his home state can use them to kill prairie dogs.

“[AR-15’s] are a sporting rifle… in my state they use them to shoot prairie dogs and, you know, other types of varmints,” the second-highest ranking GOP senator said Tuesday. “And, so, I think there are legitimate reasons why people would want to have them. I think the challenge you have already is that there are literally millions of them available in this country.”

Thune, the Senate minority whip, also echoed his fellow Republicans in calling for greater focus on guns and mental health issues, saying, “So I just think that the issues that they should be focused on is how do you keep those types of weapons out of the hands of these young – in this case, male – very deranged, young men.”

The discussion surrounding access to AR-15s comes as senators are calling for patience amid talks on a legislative package that could include the first significant federal gun restrictions in three decades, along with provisions dealing with school security and mental health.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said his chamber would vote on it “in the near future,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted that it was “way too soon” to predict how many Republicans might ultimately come along.

“We don’t have an agreement yet,” McConnell said, adding, “I personally would prefer to get an outcome, and I hope that we’ll have one sooner rather than later.”




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