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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.”

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Video game makers urged to shun gun industry

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, soon after December’s Newtown school massacre, had said some blame should be put upon a video-game industry that glorifies murder, “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence against its own people.”

But what about firearms in video games?

As the video-game industry begins its annual Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, two gun-control groups are calling upon game makers to stop signing lucrative licensing agreements and product-placement deals with gun manufacturers, so that images of actual military-style weapons don’t appear in games.

Battlefield 4A report published today by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project says video games often feature real-world weapons identified by make and model, and have offered cross-promotional opportunities to players to buy them once the game is over.

“We are outraged that video game companies and gun manufacturers are entering into deals to market guns to our children, particularly given the real-life epidemic of gun violence in America,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The gun industry and their lobbyists have proven time and again that they’re only motive is profit, not encouraging reforms or regulations that would make our children and families safer. To them, our children are pawns to be manipulated for profit.”

Like any other product placement deal, these licensing agreements are meant to increasing the visibility of firearms. One gun industry representative cited in the report said video games provide an opportunity to promote to children, “who are considered possible future owners.”

Yet the report’s authors claim games featuring real-world guns don’t sell any better than games with made-up weapon names – the economic benefit is almost exclusively on the gun manufacturers’ side, the report says.

Redwood City-based Electronic Arts last month announced it will no longer enter into such licensing agreements. “We not only applaud that decision, we are asking the rest of the video game industry to follow suit,” Watts said in a news release. “There is no reason why video game manufacturers should do the gun industry’s dirty work, promoting assault and military-style weapons to our children and teens.”

Actually, EA said it would cut its licensing ties to gunmakers – but continue featuring branded guns without a license.

Watts’ effort to get other companies to sign a pledge is supported by the Every Child Matters Education Fund is supporting the effort. “Thousands of children and teenagers are killed by guns every year,” said fund president Michael Petit. “How any company, knowing that, could continue to market guns to our kids is simply beyond me. It is unacceptable.”