Thompson sets gun task force roster, hearing

Rep. Mike Thompson, the House Democrats’ point man on gun reform, has picked a dozen vice chairs – including another Bay Area member of Congress – for his task force and is planning a community forum next week in the North Bay.

Mike ThompsonThompson, D-Napa, was named last month by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to head a task force on gun violence prevention. He’s a Vietnam combat veteran, gun owner and avid hunter.

“Our vice chairs have a wide range of expertise, come from different backgrounds representing all corners of the House Democratic Caucus, and will bring unique ideas to the table as we work to reduce and prevent gun violence while also protecting the rights of law-abiding individuals without a history of dangerous mental illness to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes,” Thompson said in a news release today.

Among the 12 vice chairs is Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, who survived being shot five times at close range in the 1978 assassination of her boss, Rep. Leo Ryan, on an airstrip near Jonestown, Guyana; she still carries two of the bullets in her body. Since then she has been a consistent advocate of gun control, and carried assault weapons ban legislation in California twenty years ago. She supports banning military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, as well as closing loopholes in the background-check process.

Speier last month had noted California’s gun controls are among the nation’s strictest and should be a model for federal law – or perhaps exceeded.

“We’re way ahead of the curve,”’ she said, “but it still is not enough.”

The other 11 vice chairs will be Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who succeeded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was severely wounded in an assassination attempt; John Dingell, D-Mich., a hunter who has carried background-check legislation before; Bill Enyart, D-Ill., the retired Major General of the Illinois National Guard; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., who represents Newtown, Conn.; Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who created a “Groceries for Guns” buyback program in Philadelphia; Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was murdered and son critically wounded in a 1993 mass shooting ojn the Long Island Railroad; Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus; Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who represented Aurora, Colo., during the July 2012 movie-theater mass shooting; David Price, D-N.C., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, which holds the pursestrings for first responders; Bobby Scott, D-Va., who has been active in juvenile justice issues; and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus.

The task force will hold meetings and hearings over the next month to identify the best policies to reduce and prevent gun violence, and will release a comprehensive set of proposals in early February.

Thompson also has announced he’ll hold a forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Jan. 9 at Vallejo City Hall, 555 Santa Clara St., to bring together law enforcement, school and local elected officials; mental health experts; community members and other stakeholders for a discussion on how to reduce and prevent gun violence.

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.