Mike Honda pitches ‘Gun Violence Research Act’

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would regain the authority to research the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gun injuries, under a bill proposed Wednesday by Rep. Mike Honda.

Honda’s Gun Violence Research Act, inspired by a spate of mass shootings on top of the nation’s high death-by-gun rate, also would encourage improvement and expansion of the CDC’s already existing National Violent Death Reporting System, and would give doctors the right to ask patients about firearm possession, speak to them about gun safety, and report a patient’s threat of violence to authorities.

honda.jpg“In Silicon Valley, we recognize the power of research. My Gun Violence Research Act seeks to bring this data-driven approach to the public sphere so that we may develop a more pointed strategy to understand and ultimately better address the public health crisis of gun violence,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release.

“It is my hope that by conducting research into the causes of gun violence, we can better identify warning signs, address any loopholes in oversight, and get people who are prone to gun violence the assistance they need,” he added. “How many times must we bury our loved ones from senseless acts of gun violence before we pass commonsense legislation to understand the problem our society is facing?”

The House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment in July that would’ve let the CDC study the underlying causes of gun violence. That same month, a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that limits doctors’ ability to ask questions and record information about patients’ gun ownership.

Honda’s bill has 36 original cosponsors include Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, but about zero likelihood of getting even a committee hearing in the Republican-led House.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence supports it.

“When the cause of death is the same for 32,000 people every year, that’s a public health crisis that demands attention. That’s why it is so important that the Centers for Disease Control study gun violence causes, effects and solutions,” campaign president Dan Gross said. “If this were any other issue — food poisoning, seat belts, anything else — this would be a non-issue, which speaks to the corporate gun lobby’s stranglehold on Washington.”

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said gun violence in cities like Oakland is “intolerable and truly represents a public-health crisis.”

“We are also just beginning to understand the long-term and crushing effects of the trauma inflicted upon children and families whose lives are forever altered by gun violence,” she said. “It is vitally important that the CDC be able to study gun violence and its repercussions in order to combat this epidemic in a meaningful and smart way.”


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.”


California lawmakers’ State of the Union guests

Here’s a sampling of guests invited by California lawmakers to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight:

FloresRep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose: Honda is bringing Claudia Flores, an immigration rights activist who was allowed to stay in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Flores and her family moved to San Jose from Honduras when she was a teenager; she became a leader at San Jose High School and in her community, eventually earning a full-ride scholarship to Santa Clara University. She was an intern in Honda’s office two summers ago and is now a public policy fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “This hard-working, bright woman, who has done so much in her young career, would have been deported if not for President Obama’s action in 2012,” Honda said. “She is exactly the type of person this policy was meant to encourage to stay in the United States.”

UsafiRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin: Swalwell is bringing Mohammad Usafi, an Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Marines and after waiting nearly four years received a special immigrant visa to move to the Bay Area one year ago. The Taliban kidnapped Usafi’s young brother for ransom and killed his father because of the aid he had worked for American troops; after Swalwell and other House members helped friends and advocates petition the State Department, Usafi’s mother and seven siblings were granted humanitarian parole to join him here in December. “It’s a great relief that today Mohammad and his family live in the Bay Area, but more must be done and can be done in a bipartisan fashion to help interpreters like Mohammad,” Swalwell said.

ChristensenRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: Speier is bringing retired U.S. Air Force Col. Don Christensen, that branch’s longest-serving chief prosecutor and a leading advocate of military sexual assault reform. Christensen is president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that’s leading efforts to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. “I invited Colonel Christensen with the hope that he could witness President Obama announce his support of fundamental reform of the military justice system,” Speier said. “A year after requesting a report from the Pentagon, the president now has the results on his desk. He has all the information he needs. Tonight would be a perfect time for him to lead on this issue by supporting taking sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.”

MartinezRep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara: Capps is bringing Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20, was among those slain in last May’s rampage near UC-Santa Barbara. Martinez, of Los Osos, became a face of the tragedy as he urged lawmakers to pursue stricter gun-control measures; he since has joined the staff of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As the 114th Congress begins their tenure, it is time they put the public safety of their constituents first, and that means making gun safety a priority to help reduce gun violence in America,” Martinez said.

OliverRep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove: Bera is bringing Susan Oliver, widow of Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who was shot to death in the line of duty in October by a gunman who also killed a Placer County deputy. Their lives “remind us that our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day for our safety,” Bera said. “They were true heroes and we are forever indebted to them and their loved ones. Let’s honor their memory by building understanding and trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, just like Deputy Oliver did.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: Feinstein is bringing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s been mayor since 2013 and earlier was a councilman; Feinstein said they’ve worked together on issues such as funding for the Metro’s Purple Line extension and efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans.


Supporters rally for ‘gun restraining order’ bill

Advocates of a bill that would create a “gun violence restraining order” system are stepping up their efforts in advance of a state Senate floor vote later this month.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, along with several Bay Area police chiefs and gun control advocates, rallied Monday morning outside the Emeryville Police Department in support of AB 1014. Skinner and Santa Barbara Democrats Assemblyman Das Williams and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson announced the bill soon after a May rampage at UC-Santa Barbara left six students dead.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get guns out of the hands of someone in crisis,” Skinner said in a news release Monday. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool to help prevent these tragedies.”

Modeled on domestic violence laws, AB 1014 creates a process to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove firearms already in possession by a person who shows warning signs of a risk of violence. Law enforcement or family members would have the right to ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession. Connecticut, Indiana and Texas have similar laws, Skinner’s office said.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed, or the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“AB 1014 fills an important gap in the law that prevents law enforcement from acting to prevent violence before it happens,” Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, a longtime gun-control advocate, said in Skinner’s news release. “This need has been obvious to law enforcement for years. But the time to act is now. The tragedy in Santa Barbara makes that obvious.”

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 5-2 vote June 24, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it Friday on a 5-0 vote with two Republicans not voting.


‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”


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.”