Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Mike Thompson Announces Policy Principles

Feb 7, 2013
Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5), chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, today announced the task force's comprehensive set of policy principles designed to reduce gun violence while respecting the 2nd Amendment Rights of law-abiding Americans. 

“As a hunter and gun owner I believe we should protect law-abiding individuals' 2nd Amendment right to own firearms. As a father and grandfather I also believe that we have a responsibility to make our schools, neighborhoods and communities safe. This comprehensive set of policy principles accomplishes both those goals and Congress should act on them without delay. Moving forward I will use these recommendations to develop and influence legislation in both the House and Senate and work to get legislation based on these principles signed into law,” said Thompson.  

“As a survivor of the mass shooting in Tucson two years ago, I am determined that no one else should have to endure such grief and loss. And as a member of Congress and as a vice chairman of this task force, I am unwavering in my commitment to push forward with legislation that will protect our children and our communities,” said Rep. Ron Barber (AZ)

“I commend Chairman Thompson for his hard work in making this a fair, open and transparent process, as we look to find a balanced way to protect both our families and our Second Amendment rights. I still have genuine concerns about some of these recommendations. There are many that I support, and I believe that moving this process forward and continuing this important conversation is what the American people deserve. I will release further comments on these recommendations separately,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (MI).

“In conversations I've had with residents in Newtown and across my district and in the thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls I've received from constituents on gun violence, I've heard a resounding call for commonsense policies to save lives. I'm proud to support these commonsense, comprehensive principles as a guide for our continuing national discussion on gun violence prevention and for action moving forward. What happened almost two months ago in Newtown was an unimaginable tragedy. What happens now is up to us. We must meet this call to action to protect our children, our families, and our communities,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT). 

“This task force has worked diligently to provide a comprehensive list of recommendations that will be first steps in reducing gun violence, all of which I support. I'm pleased to have specifically recommended two of the provisions included in the list; more funds for tip lines that offer financial rewards to individuals to help recover illegal guns and locks for the safe storage of firearms. We are determined to lead the effort for real change that will reduce gun violence and protect our children while also protecting an individual's right to bear arms for sport or self-defense. Americans are insisting that now is the time to act,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA).

“When 20 kids are gunned down in their classrooms and over 30 Americans are killed with guns every day, to do nothing in response is to fail the American people.  We've thoroughly researched and presented a range of options, each of which can help save lives and reduce injuries, and many of which have been proposed by others as well.  It's long past the time for Washington to finally act,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY). 

“Thank you to Chairman Thompson and my colleagues on the Task Force for recognizing that mental health is a critical part of the conversation on gun violence prevention and for understanding how it affects our families, communities, and businesses. We must continue to de-stigmatize the issue of mental illness and elevate mental health to achieve parity with physical health. Americans have demanded that action be taken, and these principles are a critical first step in protecting the well-being of all,” said Rep. Grace Napolitano. 

"I believe in and value the Second Amendment.  It is a part of our American history and way of life. But, after so many gun violence tragedies, we in Congress have an obligation to make gun violence less easy, less frequent, and less deadly.  I know from listening to my constituents there are sensible solutions most Americans support such as the ones outlined by our Task Force. These measures should be brought to a vote in Congress with bipartisan support. We cannot wait another day, week or month to keep our kids and communities safe," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO).

“Our people have a right to expect that they will be free from harm in their communities and their children will be safe in their schools.  The Task Force's recommendations—which reflect input from a wide range of stakeholders—prioritize keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, enhancing mental health services, cracking down on illegal gun trafficking and removing military-style assault weapons from our streets. I urge the leadership of this House to act immediately on these reasonable and common-sense principles which respect the rights of responsible gun owners and make our communities safer,” said Rep. David Price (NC). 

“Sustained gun violence prevention is achievable through scientifically proven general violence prevention strategies.  Such general violence prevention strategies require comprehensive, evidence-based services for at-risk children and families delivered through a collaborative plan involving law enforcement, social services, schools, mental health, businesses, non-profit, faith-based and other community-based organizations working with such children and families.  This approach has been scientifically proven to not only greatly reduce gun violence and crime, but it also saves much more in avoided criminal justice and social welfare expenditures than the evidenced-based services cost,” said Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA).

“The American people have already spoken in outrage about the human toll of gun violence in our country. We have no more excuses, now is the time for Congress to act on this issue. Our children, friends, and loved ones will be safer when we pass common sense gun laws that keep military-style weapons and large magazines off our streets and out of our communities. The members of our diverse task force agree that all Americans have the right to be safe and the right to live without the fear of a shooting at their child's elementary school, their college campus, their shopping mall, or their street corner. I commend Congressman Thompson for his leadership of this group of Members with wide ranging views on gun ownership, gun safety, and gun violence prevention. We worked together to develop principles that reflect the values of all Americans who want to prevent the next Sandy Hook, Aurora, or Virginia Tech,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (CA). 

“A comprehensive approach to address gun violence should be taken to protect the freedom and safety of all Americans.  I look forward to working to enact meaningful legislation that will help make our streets and communities safer while also protecting law-abiding individuals' right to own firearms,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS). 

For nearly two months, the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, under the leadership of Chairman Mike Thompson, has met with people on both sides of the aisle and all sides of the issue to develop a comprehensive set of policy principles that respect the 2nd Amendment and will make our schools, neighborhoods, and communities safer. 

The task force met with and solicited input from victims of gun violence and gun safety advocates; gun owners, hunters, and outdoor sportsmen; federal, state, and local law enforcement; educators and community workers; mental health experts and physicians; representatives of the motion picture, television, music, and video game industries; leaders in our faith communities; and representatives of gun manufacturers and retailers, as well as cabinet secretaries and the Vice President of the United States.  The task force also met with Members of Congress from all sides of the issue, and held hearings in Washington, DC to consider ways to address this issue.

Chairman Thompson and the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force urge Congress to: 
  • Support the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. The United States Supreme Court affirmed individuals' 2nd rights to firearms in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).  However, the Supreme Court also held that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Within the limits described by Heller, the federal government has the responsibility to take appropriate steps to protect our citizens from gun violence. 
  • Support citizens' rights to possess firearms for hunting, shooting sports, defense, and other lawful and legitimate purposes: In the United States, there is a long tradition of hunting and recreational shooting, and firearms are often passed down within families from generation to generation. Policies passed by Congress should respect this. 
  • Reinstate and strengthen a prospective federal ban on assault weapons: These weapons are designed to fire a large number of rounds in a short period of time. They constitute a lethal threat to law enforcement and other first responders
  • Reinstate a prospective federal ban on assault magazines: These magazines hold more than ten rounds and allow a shooter to inflict mass damage in a short period of time without reloading. Banning them will save lives.
  • Require a background check for every gun sale, while respecting reasonable exceptions for cases such as gifts between family members and temporary loans for sporting purposes: It is estimated that four out of ten gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm because federal law only requires these checks when someone buys a gun from a federally licensed dealer. That would be like allowing four out of ten people to choose if they'd go through airport security. This loophole allows felons, domestic abusers, and those prohibited because of mental illness to easily bypass the criminal background check system and buy firearms at gun shows, through private sellers, over the internet or out of the trunks of cars. 
  • Strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database: Immediate action is needed to ensure the information in the NICS database is up to date. Many federal and state agencies remain deficient in transferring important records to the database. Without the information, the background checks aren't complete. This needs to change.
  • Prosecute those prohibited buyers who attempt to purchase firearms and others who violate federal firearm laws: Federal law bars nine categories of people—including felons and those prohibited because of mental illness —from buying guns. But when prohibited persons attempt to buy guns, they are hardly ever prosecuted. More can and must be done to make these investigations and prosecutions a priority. 
  • Pass legislation aimed specifically at cracking down on illegal gun trafficking and straw-purchasing: Straw-purchasing is when a prohibited buyer has someone with no criminal history walk into a gun store, pass a background check and purchase a gun with the purpose of giving it to the prohibited buyer.  This puts guns in the hands of people who are prohibited from having them. Congress should pass a law that will put an end to this practice.
  • Restore funding for public safety and law enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence: Congress should fund law enforcement's efforts to reduce gun violence, while supporting federal research into causes of gun violence.  Put simply, there is no reason the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the National Institute of Health (NIH) should be inhibited from researching the causes of gun violence. And there is no reason for the restrictions federal law places on our law enforcement officers' ability to track and combat the spread of illegal guns.
  • Support initiatives that prevent problems before they start: Local communities should have assistance in applying evidence-based prevention and early intervention strategies that are designed to prevent the problems that lead to gun violence before those problems start.
  • Close the holes in our mental-health system and make sure that care is available for those who need it: Congress must improve prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental illness while working to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. Access to mental health services should be improved, the shortage of mental health professionals should be addressed, and funding should be made available for those programs that have proven to be effective. 
  • Help our communities get unwanted and illegal guns out of the hands of those who don't want them or shouldn't have them: Congress should help support and develop local programs that get unwanted guns off our streets. And Congress should work with states to develop programs that get guns out of the hands of those convicted of certain crimes or those prohibited because of mental illness.
  • Support responsible gun ownership: Congress should support safety training, research aimed at developing new gun safety technologies and the safe storage of firearms. 
  • Take steps to enhance school safety. Congress must help all schools implement evidence-based strategies that support safe learning environments tailored to the unique needs of students and local communities. And Congress must work with all schools to develop emergency response plans. 
  • Address our culture's glorification of violence seen and heard though our movie screens, television shows, music and video games: Congress should fund scientific research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence, while ensuring that parents have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about what their families watch, listen to, and play.
The full recommendations of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force can be viewed here.

Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California's 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.  He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and sits on the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.

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