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Congressman Mike Thompson

Representing the 5th District of CALIFORNIA

Gun Violence Prevention

As a hunter and gun owner I believe we should protect a law-abiding individual’s Second Amendment right to own firearms. As a dad and grandfather I also believe that we have a responsibility to make our schools, streets and communities safe. We can do both, but Congress will need to step up.

After being named chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the U.S. House of Representatives, I held a series of open town halls in our district that examined some of the actions that Congress could take. Hundreds attended these meetings. I heard views from law enforcement officials, mental health experts, school officials, NRA members and gun control advocates. Many feared that their Second Amendment rights would come under attack when my task force made its recommendations to Congress. Others wanted to cast those rights aside.

I believe both views are too extreme. I will never give up my guns and I will never ask law-abiding Americans without a history of dangerous mental illness to give up theirs. Not only am I personally against this, the Constitution does not allow it. In District of Columbia v. Heller the Supreme Court affirmed once and for all that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms.

However, just as the First Amendment protects free speech but doesn't allow you to incite violence, the Second Amendment has restrictions too. As conservative justice Anthony Scalia outlined, Heller does not prohibit laws forbidding firearms in places such as schools, nor does it restrict laws prohibiting felons and the mentally ill from carrying guns.

This ruling provides people on both sides of the issue with an opportunity to work within the confines of the Second Amendment and pass legislation that will reduce and prevent gun violence.

My task force released a comprehensive set of policy principles that will reduce gun violence and respect the Second Amendment.

Of those recommendations, the single most important thing Congress can do is pass H.R. 1565, the bipartisan legislation that I co-authored with Peter King of New York to strengthen and expand our background check system. This bill bolsters the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners and helps keep guns from criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill.

H.R. 1565 requires comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friends. Background checks would be conducted though a licensed dealer in the same manner as they have for more than 40 years.

H.R. 1565 is pro-lawful gun owner, pro-Second Amendment, and anti-criminal.

Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad – because those sales don’t require a background check. Last year, the background check system identified and denied 88,000 gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers, those with dangerous mental illnesses, and other prohibited purchasers. However, those same criminals could buy those same guns at a gun show or over the Internet without any questions asked. H.R. 1565 closes this huge loophole, greatly reducing the number of places a criminal can buy a gun.

H.R. 1565 supports the Second Amendment. It provides reasonable exceptions for firearm transfers between family and friends. You won’t have to get a background check when you inherit the family rifle, borrow a friend’s shotgun for a hunting trip, or purchase a gun from a buddy or neighbor.  

It bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison; it allows active duty military to buy firearms in their home states and the state in which they are stationed; it authorizes the use of a state concealed carry permit in lieu of a background check to purchase a firearm; and, it allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

H.R. 1565 is consistent with Heller and will help keep our communities safe. This debate on background checks isn't a choice between either protecting the Second Amendment or reducing gun violence. It's about the willingness of a responsible majority to do both.

More on Gun Violence Prevention

Apr 21, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), vice-chair of the Task Force, and Peter King (R-NY) today led more than 110 of their bipartisan colleagues in calling on Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to reject legislative language, or “riders”, that would block efforts to reduce and prevent gun violence in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills.

Mar 30, 2016 News Articles

By the Press-Democrat Editorial Board

Politics, as the German statesman Otto Von Bismarck said, is the art of the possible.

Right now, it seems as if getting any sort of gun safety legislation through Congress is close to impossible.

Give credit to Rep. Mike Thompson for not giving up.

Mar 23, 2016 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Peter King (R-NY), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Robert Dold (R-IL), Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Daniel Donovan (R-NY) today led 163 of their colleagues in calling on appropriators to provide funds to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the database used to determine whether or not a prospective buyer is eligible to buy a firearm.

Mar 19, 2016 News Articles

By Paul Payne

Mike Thompson was talking gun safety legislation as he slipped two yellow shells into a 20-gauge Browning shotgun, snapped the breech closed and yelled, “Pull.”

Two orange sporting clays sailed in a low arc above a muddy field, dark clouds hanging over San Pablo Bay in the distance. Thompson aimed and fired twice.

The first flying target shattered, raining debris on the ground below. A second disc suffered the same fate.

The white-haired congressman stared for a moment with a satisfied look before turning to reload.

Jan 6, 2016 News Articles

President Barack Obama came to tears as he announced a series of executive actions Tuesday to reduce gun violence in America. The emotion was understandable. At the time, he was making reference to the 20 children shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. The father of one of those victims was in the audience.

“First graders,” he said, pausing to compose himself. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.”

But there are other reasons to be somber about the actions taken by the president on Tuesday.

Jan 6, 2016 News Articles

WASHINGTON, D.C. >> U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, was at the White House Tuesday as President Obama announced executive actions to reduce and prevent gun violence.

Jan 5, 2016 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, was at the White House today as President Obama announced executive actions to reduce and prevent gun violence.

Jan 5, 2016 News Articles

Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, lauded President Barack Obama’s executive actions to help prevent gun violence by expanding criminal background checks.

“Thirty-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun, and the actions taken today by President Obama will help save some of those lives. I applaud this move and thank him for his relentless work on the issue of gun violence,” Thompson said.

Jan 5, 2016 News Articles

President Barack Obama has spoken emotionally about the need for the US to enact measures to limit firearm purchases in a country known for its so-called "gun culture".

His executive actions - without Congressional approval - focus primarily on beefing up background checks and funding mental health programmes, in the hope of keeping guns out of the wrong hands.

Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson, who chairs a House taskforce on gun violence, says that Congress needs to build on what the president has done so far.

Jan 4, 2016 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today released the following statement on President Obama’s executive actions to help prevent gun violence by expanding criminal background checks:

“30-plus people are killed every day by someone using a gun, and the actions taken today by President Obama will help save some of those lives. I applaud this move and thank him for his relentless work on the issue of gun violence.