House Dems urge vote on background checks

Democrats took to the House floor today to commemorate the six-month anniversary of the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., and to try to jump-start the seemingly moribund effort to get a background-check bill through Congress.

The Senate rejected the bill in April, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, doesn’t seem likely to bring it to a vote. That didn’t stop Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, from trying to shame him into it today.

And from Rep. Mike Thomspon, D-Napa, who has been House Democrats’ point man on gun violence issues:

Read a transcript of Thompson’s remarks, after the jump…

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

“Six months ago, our nation witnessed a horrible massacre of innocence in Newtown, Connecticut.

“In the six months since, there are two important facts that we should note. First, nearly 5,000 more Americans have been killed by people using guns. Second, Congress has done absolutely nothing to reduce and prevent these deaths.

“The Senate took one vote to expand background checks. Sadly, it failed when a minority of Senators voted against the wishes of 90 percent of Americans.

“The only thing more disappointing than the Senate voting down this pro-gun owner, anti-criminal legislation, is that the House has refused to vote at all.

“Peter King and I have introduced H.R. 1565, legislation that’s identical to the Senate background check effort. We have 3 Republicans. We have 179 Democrats. A total of 182 co-authors.

“Surely, we need more support from the Republican side of the aisle.
But the truth is, this shouldn’t be a controversial bill and it shouldn’t be partisan. Background checks are something everyone in both parties should be able to agree on.

“Everyone says they’re against criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill getting guns. But you can’t be against that and be against background checks. Background checks are the first line of defense.

“Our bipartisan bill strengthens that first line of defense.

“It’s anti-criminal. Right now, a criminal can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad – because those sales don’t require a background check.

“Last year, the background check system identified and denied 88,000 gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers, those with dangerous mental illnesses, and other prohibited purchasers. However, those same criminals could buy those same guns at a gun show or over the Internet without any questions asked – because those sales don’t require a background check.

“Our bill closes this huge loophole, greatly reducing the number of places a criminal can buy a gun – because our bill would require background checks at all gun shows, and for internet or newspaper sales.

“Our bill is pro-gun owner and pro-Second Amendment. It provides reasonable exceptions for firearm transfers between family and friends. You won’t have to get a background check when you inherit the family rifle, or borrow shotgun for a hunting trip, or purchase a gun from a friend, hunting buddy or neighbor.

“It bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“It allows active duty military to buy firearms in their home states and the state in which they are stationed.

“It authorizes the use of a state concealed carry permit in lieu of a background check to purchase a firearm.

“And, it allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

“We have a bill ready for the floor. It’s bipartisan. It will help keep guns from criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill. And it supports the Second Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans.

“If the bill didn’t support the Second Amendment, my name wouldn’t be on it. I am a gun owner and I believe that law-abiding Americans have a constitutional right to own a firearm.

“But I’m also a father and grandfather and I know we have a responsibility to do everything we can do reduce gun violence.

“This bill deserves a vote. The people of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of the nearly 5,000 people who’ve been killed since Newtown deserve a vote. Our kids and grandkids deserve a vote.

“Mr. Speaker, please give us a vote.”

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.