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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

Jul 11, 2014 News Articles

As mass shootings continue at an alarming rate, any helpful legislation is welcomed with open arms. On Capitol Hill, one such measure, proposed by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, a gun owner himself and Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, would allow police to obtain gun removal warrants from judges whenever someone is having a mental health crisis and is deemed a danger to himself or others.

Jul 3, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, released the following statement on today’s Quinnipiac University Poll that found 92 percent of American voters, including 92 percent of gun owners, support requiring background checks on all gun purchases. The poll also showed 86 percent of Republicans support background checks.

Jun 29, 2014 News Articles

Deadly mass shootings occur with such alarming regularity that the public can be forgiven for believing there's no way to prevent them.

But lawmakers and experts concerned with the connections between mental illness and violence insist that solutions exist.

And, they say, many of them can be found in California, where laws on the books are credited with reducing the gun death rate 56 percent in the past two decades, according to data compiled by San Francisco's Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Jun 27, 2014 News Articles

In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, Nev. and Santa Barbara, Congress members Carol Shea-Porter (D-New Hampshire), a member of the House's Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), the task force's chairman, led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signed by 163 members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Jun 26, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signed by 163 Members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Jun 16, 2014 News Articles

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, has reignited a push to reform gun laws in America following high-profile incidents of gun violence in Santa Barbara and cities in Washington, Oregon and Nevada recently.

Thompson chaired a task force on preventing gun violence in the House of Representatives in early 2013, following a mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 that left 26 children and adults at the school dead.

Jun 10, 2014 News Articles

In just barely over two weeks, we've been jolted – or have we, really? – by shootings on or near college and high school campuses in California, Washington and now Oregon.

Six dead in Isla Vista. One dead in Seattle. And now Troutdale, where a student was killed, the gunman died, and the lives of hundreds of teenagers, parents and staff at Reynolds High School were turned upside down this morning.

Jun 1, 2014 News Articles

U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, has introduced the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014, major mental health and domestic violence legislation aimed at reducing and preventing gun violence.

May 30, 2014 Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today introduced the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act of 2014, major mental health and domestic violence legislation aimed at reducing and preventing gun violence.

May 30, 2014 News Articles

Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena opened another push by House Democrats on Friday for legislation to reduce gun violence and target mental health services following the killings of six people in Isla Vista a week ago.