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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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Some Muslim-American thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

As Bay Area residents prepare to stage a solidarity and support vigil outside the French Consulate in San Francisco tonight, here’s a sampling of some Muslim-American thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris.

From Haris Tarin, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Washington, D.C. office:

“The tragic irony that these criminals displayed is that if they actually gave a cursory look over the Prophet Muhammad’s life, they’d see how he reacted to insults and degrading treatment. The Prophet always responded with mercy and forgiveness. No matter what grievances individuals or communities might have, violence is never the answer.”

From Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad:

“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.

“We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Zahra Billoo, who directs CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, posted to her Facebook page and Tweeted that she “supports free speech. ‪#‎CharlieHebdo‬ ‪#‎ParisShooting‬.”

From the Facebook page of Hanif Mohebi, who directs CAIR’s San Diego chapter:

“To my French Muslim brothers and sisters, its absolutely important to condemn the recent violent act, and be very vocal about it. I also recommend that security for Mosques, Islamic Schools and to be very cautious in general. May Allah(swt) save us all.”

From the Facebook page of Shireen Qudosi, who runs a Southern California content, marketing and design agency:

“Home sick today to find more distressing news that should be another wake up call for the fundie-coddling West. Amidst catching up on the news, I see a once-again mushrooming of ‘Where are the Muslims voices speaking out against this?!’ To the nay-sayers, I say this: Please explain to me how you expect reform-minded Muslims, to practically overnight, go toe-to-toe with well-funded radical and sympathetic organizations, who on top of all their funding receive ample Western media support. On the other hand, I’ve had reporters and journalists straight up walk out of the room or not use a single line of interview time because it didn’t subscribe to a victim agenda. We’re speaking out, and we’re doing the best we can on a grassroots level. I can only speak for me personally when I say that I do my best to research and write pro-reform work and network with like-minded individuals, while also working almost two full time jobs and raising a toddler with special needs. I wield my war against radical Islam with a pen, and not with useless hippie protests on a street when I need to be at work fulfilling my commitment to my family. People are so quick to say ‘where are the Muslims’ and very slow to actually understand the juggernaut obstacles we’re working to overcome along with very awkwardly balancing a personal life… and we are overcoming our reform obstacles. When I started my reform work nearly ten years ago, reform wasn’t even an idea and there were only maybe 3 or 4 people speaking out. Now we have a legion. It’s in fact one of the projects I’m working on and you’re welcome to walk the talk even if all you’re doing is sharing this link and message with your network: http://www.gofundme.com/Islamic-Reform
I don’t have time to deal with naysayers, internet trolls, doubters and arm-chair generals. We have real wars to fight and, in this, we don’t have the luxury of entertain people who like to think they’re experts and philosophers. You don’t like Muslims? That’s fine. You don’t need to and I’m not asking you to. But I also don’t need to answer to your petulant demand for answers.”

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Anna Eshoo urges probe of Navy Yard radio failure

Rep. Anna Eshoo wants to know why first responders who rushed to the Washington Navy Yard during last Monday’s massacre had radio failures that left them using personal cell phones and runners to communicate.

Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, who is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, joined with committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, in writing today to Lawrence Strickling, the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for communications and information, and Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn to urge an investigation.

“If these reports are accurate, this will not be the first time communications difficulties impaired first responders during an emergency,” the lawmakers wrote. “Unfortunately, there have been numerous communications system failures during recent natural disasters and national emergencies, most notably the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.”

Congress last year enacted legislation creating FirstNet, which is tasked with overseeing the construction of a nationwide, high-speed, interoperable broadband network dedicated to public safety. Eshoo and Waxman today asked that an inquiry into last week’s snafu also focus on how FirstNet might prevent similar communications breakdowns in the future; they requested an update by Oct. 21.

Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
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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…
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Moment of silence Friday for Newtown

At the request of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, California Gov. Jerry Brown today called for Californians to observe a moment of silence tomorrow in honor of the 20 children and six adults killed in Newtown.

California will observe the moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, December 21.

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Boxer pitches grants, Guardsmen for safer schools

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer today introduced two new bills that she said will strengthen safety at schools by giving state and local officials new resources and tools to help them secure their campuses and protect students.

Barbara Boxer“When our children and our grandchildren are at school, we must have faith that they are safe,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This legislation will help state and local officials protect our children by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

One bill – the School Safety Enhancements Act – would strengthen and expand the Justice Department’s existing COPS Secure Our Schools grants program to provide schools with more resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances and other important safety measures.

The program currently requires a 50 percent local match, but Boxer’s bill would let the Justice Department reduce the local share to 20 percent for schools with limited resources. The bill also creates a joint task force between the Justice Department and the Department of Education to develop new school safety guidelines, and would increase the Secure Our Schools authorization from $30 million to $50 million.

Boxer’s second bill – the Save Our Schools (SOS) Act – would let the federal government reimburse governors who want to use National Guard troops to help ensure that our nation’s schools are safe.

It’s modeled after a successful National Guard program – in place since 1989 – that lets governors use Guardsmen to assist with law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities. Under the new program, Guard troops could help support local law enforcement agencies to ensure schools are safe. The National Guard has said it is “particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions” because it is “located in over 3,000 local communities throughout the nation, readily accessible, routinely exercised with local first responders, and experienced in supporting neighboring communities.”

Boxer said bills like this are only part of a comprehensive response to Friday’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school; she also wants new gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as controls to ensure that the mentally ill can’t buy guns.