Shelby discusses national debt, gun control

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sen. Richard Shelby spoke at Calera City Hall on Feb. 21.

Sen. Richard Shelby spoke at Calera City Hall on Feb. 21. (Photo by Katie McDowell)

By KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

CALERA – To pay off the national debt, each American citizen – every man, woman and child – would need to pay the government $53,000, Sen. Richard Shelby said during a speech at Calera City Hall on Thursday morning.

Shelby said the country is $16.5 trillion in debt and is “the largest debtor nation in the world.” He said the country’s population is approximately 300 million.

“Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal or what, you should want and we all need a sound economic system, where we don’t financially bankrupt our own country and ultimately our future,” he said.

Shelby said he expects the national debt and avoiding sequestration will be the “number one” issue when the Senate, which is currently in recess, reconvenes on Feb. 25.

The United States is facing sequestration – across-the-board budget cuts – on March 1. Sequestration is a leftover effect of The Budget Control Act of 2011, which charged a committee with finding a way to reduce the national deficit by more than 1 trillion dollars over 10 years. If the committee failed to find a compromise, the act included sequestration as a way to make the cuts.

The committee failed to find a compromise, and sequestration was originally scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. It was delayed until March 1 after Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

Shelby said unless Congress finds a way to avoid sequestration, such as suspending that part of the Budget Control Act, numerous programs, including defense, will see automatic cuts.

“That’s not the way to do business,” said Shelby, who is the senior Republican on the appropriations committee. “We should look at things closely, evaluate them. We are going to do some cutting. We have to, but we shouldn’t do it with just a hatchet or an ax. We should be careful how we do it.”

Shelby also discussed gun control issues and acknowledged the hostage situation that occurred at Chelsea Intermediate School last week, as well as discussing the Newtown Elementary School shooting.

Calling himself a “Second Amendment rights person,” Shelby said he doesn’t want “to punish” all gun owners and that people could find other ways to injure or kill.

“They could misuse a car, anything and do big damage that way,” he said. “They could make a bomb and do big damage to children or a school bus or a school or where we are right now.”

Shelby said people have to be “as secure and alert as we can.” He said there is a “mental health component” to gun control that the government hasn’t done enough to address.

Additionally, Shelby said teaching gun responsibility, stricter punishments for people who commit crimes with guns and curtailing violence in movies, TV and video games were ways to reduce gun violence.

Shelby, who is serving his fifth term, also said he expected Chuck Hagel to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense when Congress reconvenes.

“I’ll probably vote for him, barring something bad not happening between now and when he comes up,” he said. “We don’t know when we vote for people how they’ll do until they get in there. We could do a lot worse.”