Thompson to lead House Dems’ gun control effort

Rep. Mike Thompson will be House Democrats’ point man seeking new steps Congress can take to reduce gun violence and prevent massacres like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday morning.

“As we mourn the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, we must respond with more than words; we must take action. We must be able to tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “I am pleased to appoint Congressman Thompson to lead our task force to reduce and prevent gun violence. He is a Vietnam veteran and an avid hunter, and he is ideally suited to lead this effort, working with the Administration and in a bipartisan way, to ban assault weapons and assault magazines.”

Mike ThompsonThompson, D-Napa, said that as a father and grandfather, he’s “deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence we’re mourning in Newtown,” and he’s honored to chair an effort seeking ways to reduce and prevent such things.

“I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam,” Thompson said. “I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. Military-type assault weapons and assault magazines have no place on our streets or in our communities. We also need to consider instituting more detailed background checks and making sure appropriate mental health services are available. As chair of this task force I will be working on these issues as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence and strengthen our nation’s gun laws while protecting law abiding citizens’ right to own legitimate firearms.”

UPDATE @ 9 A.M.: Here’s how Thompson answered the four questions we put to all California House members for today’s front-page story:

Do you support re-enacting the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004? Why/why not?
“Yes. I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam. I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. There is absolutely no reason why people should have access to military-type assault weapons or assault magazines. They serve no sporting purpose, they aid criminals, and they open the door to mass shootings like the one we’re mourning in Newtown.”

Do you believe citizens have an inalienable right to own weapons like the Bushmaster .223 rifle, along with multiple 30-round magazines, used in Newtown?
“No. I believe law-abiding, responsible Americans have the right to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes. But the second amendment was not written with the purpose of providing everyone with the inalienable right to sell or own military-type assault rifles and assault magazines.”

Should the right to own firearms be predicated upon a background check, including mental health, of others residing in that home?
“Yes. We need a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence. Conducting background checks and getting mental health information are an important part of an all-the-above approach to preventing gun violence.”

Would you support a federal law requiring user education, user licensing and registration of all firearms, much as we already require with cars?
“I support a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence that includes detailed background checks, meaningful mental health improvements, strict firearm registration rules, assault weapon bans and assault clip bans.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Constitutional Right

    Columbine happened during the last “assault weapons” ban and that did nothing to stop the killing. It won’t stop anything this time either.

    California already has the most restrictive gun laws in the United States. Connecticut had the 5th most restrictive laws, which included and “assault weapons” ban. Again, these laws do nothing to stop the killing but instead turn law-abiding people into criminals. The War on Drugs worked so well, let’s launch a War on Guns too!

    In short, gun bans do not stop those who wish to harm others. Instead they punish the innocent and disarm law-abiding citizens, leaving us victims of those who will never obey written laws. Even worse, these gun control laws turn millions of law-abiding Californians into overnight felons. Criminals will never be dissuaded by a fear of a felony charge by having a magazine of a certain size or a folding stock.