House Democrats on a gun violence task force outlined their "policy principles" Thursday at their annual policy retreat in Leesburg, Virginia.
Congressman Mike Thompson of St. Helena, himself a hunter and gun owner, heads the task force. He says the recommendations both protect the right of "law-abiding individuals" to own firearms and make "schools, neighborhoods and communities safe."
The policy brief supports the 2nd Amendment right to own firearms for hunting, shooting sports, defense, and other "legitimate purposes," but also the federal government's right to take appropriate steps to protect our citizens from gun violence. Those include:
- Reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons and magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
- Background checks for every gun sale, including private sales, purchases at gun shows, and over the internet. ("Reasonable" exceptions would be made for gifts between family members and temporary loans for sporting purposes.)
- Strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — though lawmakers don't propose requiring states to transfer information to the data base.
--Prosecute those who are prohibited from buying a gun and try to buy one anyway.
--Support local programs like California's that seize guns from felons or those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness that could make them a threat to themself or others. (There are nearly 20,000 Californians with guns who should not own them.)
- Crack down on illegal gun trafficking and straw purchases.
- Restore funding for federal research into the causes of gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institute of Health.
- Enhance school safety with emergency response plans.
- Support safety training and technologies and the safe storage of firearms.
- Fund research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence.
- Improve mental health care.
Norwalk Democrat Grace Napolitano, a co-chair of the task force, is particularly focused on the mental health aspects, saying "we must continue to de-stigmatize the issue of mental illness and elevate mental health to achieve parity with physical health."
Congressman Thompson says the recommendations will develop and influence legislation in both the House and Senate. There is no timetable on when House legislation might be introduced. On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced an assault weapons ban.
The National Rifle Association responded to the task force's outline with a statement:
“The 4.5 million men and women of the National Rifle Association and our tens of millions of supporters across the country strongly oppose this effort to enact the Obama gun control agenda," said the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox. “The last thing America needs is more failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems.
The gun control debate took a macabre turn as the man sought by possibly the largest manhunt in LAPD history weighed in. Christopher Dorner is suspected of killing two people in an Irvine parking garage and a Riverside police officer, plus wounding two others.
In a manifesto posted on Facebook, Dorner said Senator Feinstein is "doing the right thing" by leading the effort to reinstate the assault weapons ban. "Never again should any public official state that their prayers and thoughts are with the family," Dorner reportedly wrote. "That has become cliché and meaningless. It's time for action."
Senator Feinstein's office had no comment.