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Dems urge creation of gun-violence committee

For the “Fat Chance” file: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked outgoing Speaker John Boehner on Friday to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence, one day after a man armed with five handguns and a rifle killed nine and wounded nine more at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.

House Republicans have steadfastly resisted all calls for more stringent gun controls in the wake of other mass shootings in recent years. And with Boehner on his way out this month and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, trying to shore up his conservative bona fides as a successor, it’s hard to see Pelosi’s plan as anything other than a total nonstarter.

Besides the six firearms recovered at the massacre’s scene, investigators found seven more firearms – two handguns, four rifles and a shotgun – at the slain gunman’s home, said a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman. All the guns were legally obtained, obtained by the shooter or family members over the last three years through a federal firearms dealer, she said.

“Prayers for the victims, families, students, & faculty at Umpqua Community College, & the community of Roseburg, Oregon,” Boehner tweeted Thursday.

In her letter to Boehner, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, also said the select committee she proposes should have to report its recommendations to the House within 60 days, “in time for a vote before the third anniversary of the Newtown shooting this year.” She also urged Boehner to see that the House hears and passes a bipartisan bill – heretofore ignored by most Republicans – to require background checks for all firearm sales.

“The epidemic of gun violence in our country challenges the conscience of our nation. Mass shootings and gun violence are inflicting daily tragedy on communities across America,” Pelosi wrote. “As of today, nearly 10,000 Americans have been killed by guns in 2015 – more than 30 gun violence deaths a day. Yesterday’s terrible attack at Umpqua Community College in Oregon marked the 45th school shooting this year alone.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, House Democrats’ point man on gun-violence issues and co-author of the languishing background-check bill, wrote to Boehner on Friday, too.

“Every single time a mass shooting happens we go through the same routine. Thoughts and prayers are sent. Statements are made. Stories are written. And nothing changes,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Yesterday it was nine people at a community college. A month ago it was a news reporter and cameraman in Virginia. Two months before that it was a prayer group in Charleston. Mass gun violence has become as commonplace as it is tragic.”

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Congressional Republicans have done nothing over and over again and, predictably, the results have been the same: more innocent lives lost, more families forever changed, and more mass gun violence,” he added. “Republicans have a majority in Congress, and a White House and Democratic Caucus willing to work with them. All they need to do is get off their hands and act. Let’s have this time be different. This time, let’s actually pull together and do something to make our country safer.”

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Thompson renews call for background-check bill

Echoing calls from President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and many others in the wake of last week’s racist-terrorism massacre in Charleston, S.C., Rep. Mike Thompson today urged House GOP leaders to bring his bipartisan background-check bill to a vote.

Thompson, D-St. Helena, is an avid hunter and combat veteran who was tapped to be House Democrats’ point man on gun-control issues soon after the December 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. His H.R. 1217, co-authored by Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

“Mr. Speaker, last week we witnessed an act of pure hatred and evil in Charleston, S.C.

“This is a time to mourn the victims, to pray for their families, for a community to heal, and for Congress to take action against unchecked and widespread gun violence.

“30-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun. Mass shootings are becoming almost commonplace. And yet we continue to do nothing.

“No legislation will stop every tragedy. But passing commonsense gun laws will at least stop some.

“We need to pass background checks. It’s our first line of defense against criminals & the dangerously mentally ill getting guns.

“We don’t know what laws could have prevented the shooting in Charleston.

“But we do know that background checks stop help keep guns from dangerous people – and that saves lives.

“If the Republican leadership has a better idea to cut down on gun violence, let’s see it.

“If not, let’s bring commonsense, bipartisan reforms like my bill to expanded criminal background checks up for a vote.”

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted one year ago found 92 percent of Americans – and 92 percent of gun owners – support requiring background checks for all gun buyers. A Public Policy Polling survey conducted this past weekend found 90 percent support.

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Rep. Mike Thompson is quite the marksman

House Democrats’ point man on gun control is a pretty good shot, it seems.

Mike ThompsonRep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, named by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to lead the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force after 2012’s Connecticut schoolhouse massacre, won “Top Gun” honors at this week’s Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation annual shooting competition.

Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus joined the foundation and representatives from the sportsmen’s community Tuesday at Prince George’s County Trap and Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Md., to shoot rounds of trap, skeet and sporting clays.

Thompson, a Vietnam combat veteran and avid hunter, outshot 35 other members of Congress who participated to win the top individual prize. But in team competition, Republicans led by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., prevailed over Democrats led by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., with a score of 235-227.

“This annual shoot-out is a great event that brings together folks from both political parties for an afternoon of fun and comradery,” Thompson, a former two-time chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, said in a news release.“It was an honor to win the ‘Top Gun’ award, and I look forward to working with my fellow members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to advance conservation, recreation and safety issues that are important to us all.”

Thompson in March joined with Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., to re-introduce a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads. Their H.R. 1217, with only six other cosponsors, was referred to Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs subcommittees and hasn’t moved an inch since in the Republican-led House.

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House members reintroduce background-check bill

A bipiartisan group of House members led by the Bay Area’s Mike Thompson and Pete King, R-N.Y., has re-introduced a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

But with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the bill seems doomed from the get-go – especially given that it went nowhere in the last Congress.

H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, would provide exceptions for family and friend transfers. Its original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Bob Dold, R-Ill.; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y.

Mike Thompson“This anti-criminal, pro-Second Amendment bill will help keep spouses, kids and communities safe by preventing dangerous people from getting guns,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Background checks are the first line of defense in our efforts to keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, and Congress should fortify that first line of defense by passing our bipartisan bill to close the system’s loopholes.”

King noted the bill also would improve state and federal record-keeping to strengthen the background-check database, and would create a commission to examine mass-violence incidents.

“When background checks are used, they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “It is estimated that four out of 10 gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm – meaning those with criminal records can easily bypass the system. As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more.”

The bill’s authors say studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. But in much of the nation, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.

But the bill also bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides exceptions for firearms transfers between family members, friends and hunting buddies; lets active military personnel buy guns in the state in which they are stationed; and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s identical to the bill Thompson and King authored introduced in 2013 – but though it had 188 co-sponsors, H.R. 1565 was never even heard in committee. It’s also the same as the Manchin-Toomey amendment that failed in the Senate in April 2013.

The National Rifle Association opposes expanding background checks, claiming they won’t stop criminals from getting firearms by theft or via the black market.

But Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said this should be “a no-brainer.”

Ninety-two percent of the American public supports this measure to keep guns out of the hands of people like domestic abusers, rapists, and fugitives,” Gross said. “More importantly, it will save lives. We need to let our representatives know that we will not tolerate them putting the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the lives and safety of the citizens they have been elected to represent.”

This new bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees; don’t hold your breath waiting for a hearing date

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Poll: 92% of voters want gun background checks

Americans overwhelmingly support requiring background checks for all gun buyers – so long as you don’t call it “gun control,” according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Thursday.

The poll of 1,446 registered voters nationwide found 92 percent support universal background checks with only 7 percent opposed; the poll, conducted June 24-30, has a 2.6-percentage point margin of error. Among gun owners, support for universal background checks is 92 percent; among Republicans, 86 percent; and among Democrats, 98 percent, the poll found.

Also, 89 percent of U.S. voters support laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns; 91 percent of gun owners support this idea.

Yet when asked if they support “stricter gun control laws,” 50 percent said yes and 47 percent said no.

“Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.’”

The U.S. Senate last year rejected an amendment that would have expanded background checks to online and gun-show sales. H.R. 1565, a similar, bipartisan House measure co-authored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has 188 cosponsors, but Republican House leaders have refused to put it to a vote.

Thompson issued a statement Thursday saying that “as a hunter, gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment,” he’s proud to count himself among the 92 percent supporting universal background checks. He said it’s time that GOP House members heed that overwhelming call “and bring our bill up for a vote – because if the Republican Majority would allow a vote, my bill would pass.”

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the new poll “reaffirms what we all already know.”

“It is almost unthinkable that, despite such overwhelming public support, Congress continues to put the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the safety of the American people and will not even vote on expanding background checks to online sales and gun shows,” he said. “It is time we come together and hold the NRA lapdogs accountable for the lives that are being lost every day because of their despicable behavior.”

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Lawmakers remember Newtown in varied ways

Tomorrow marks one year since the Newtown school shooting massacre, and as the nation considers what has and hasn’t happened as a result, Bay Area lawmakers are observing the awful anniversary in various ways.

Nancy PelosiHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will speak at a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America event Saturday morning at St. Vincent de Paul Church in San Francisco. She’ll be joined there by families of victims of gun violence.

“It’s hard to believe that an entire year has passed since that horrific day – yet it’s even harder to believe that, despite so many promises of action, too many in Congress have advocated only inaction in the fight to prevent gun violence,” Pelosi said Friday. “In the wake this solemn anniversary, that must change. Indeed, our most lasting memorial to the victims of Newtown would be to enact a comprehensive agenda to prevent gun violence, starting with the bipartisan, King-Thompson legislation to expand background checks.”

Rep. Mike Thompson – co-author of that background-check bill and Pelosi’s appointed point man on gun violence issues – joined congresswomen Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, in an “act of kindness” Friday to mark the anniversary.

Mike ThompsonOfficials in Newtown have urged those who wish to honor the memory of the victims to engage in acts of kindness, and so the four House members helped prepare meals at Martha’s Table, a Washington, D.C, nonprofit that provides healthy meals and education rpograms to nearly 300 children, plus meals and groceries to hundreds of homeless and low-income people.

Thompson, D-Napa, and H.R. 1565 co-author Pete King, R-N.Y., issued a statement Friday noting that in the year since Newtown “more than 10,000 people have been killed by someone using a gun and Congress has done nothing to reduce gun violence. That is unacceptable.

“Congress needs to act, and we should start by passing our bipartisan background check bill so that criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill do not have easy access to guns,” the lawmakers wrote. “187 of our colleagues have co-authored this legislation and more have said they’d vote for it if the bill was brought to the floor. It’s time to get this bill passed and signed into law.”

honda.jpgAnd Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, will speak Saturday at a gun buyback event at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose, organized by a coalition of South Bay civic organizations. People will be able to anonymously exchange handguns for up to $200 in gift cards; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel, City Councilman Xavier Campos, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Father Jon Pedigo of Our Lady of Guadalupe also are scheduled to speak.

Honda on Friday called the buyback “a concrete step to get as many dangerous weapons off the streets at possible.”

“It has been one year since the tragic events at Newtown, and we will always remember those who are no longer with us. It is important to not only protect young children, however, but all of our citizens, and I will continue to fight for real change to our gun laws,” Honda said Friday, saying he has worked to increase funding for background checks and tried to block efforts to make it harder for police to track criminals using illegal guns. “Reducing needless gun violence is one of the key moral causes of our time.”