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Rep. Mike Thompson's gun violence panel backs assault-weapons ban, other steps

Rep. Mike Thompson spoke during a public forum he held at the Board of Supervisors chambers on preventing gun violence, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.

(Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 7:49 a.m.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, on Thursday released a set of 15 policy recommendations on preventing gun violence, including a federal ban on assault weapons and background checks for most gun buyers, as well as proposals regarding mental health, school safety and media portrayals of violence.

Thompson, whose district includes Santa Rosa and southeast Sonoma County, said in a telephone interview that the proposals will be a "blueprint" for legislation by House Democrats and there is "an excellent chance" that many of them will become law.

Thompson, a hunter, gun owner and Vietnam combat veteran, was appointed chairman of the Democrats' Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

His hearing on gun-violence prevention last month in Santa Rosa drew an overflow crowd to the Sonoma County supervisors chambers.

Several of the Democratic task force's recommendations, including the assault weapons ban and broader background checks, mirrored President Barack Obama's proposals last month, opposed by the National Rifle Association.

The 12-member task force's recommendations include:

Reinstating a federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 and banning magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Requiring background checks for most gun buyers, closing a loophole the task force said enables felons, domestic abusers and mentally ill people to acquire firearms.

A crackdown on illegal gun trafficking and straw-purchasing, the practice of buying a gun and giving it to a convicted felon or other prohibited buyer.

Funding federal research on the causes of gun violence and supporting local programs to take unwanted guns off the streets.

Improving prevention, early intervention and treatment of mental illness and addressing the shortage of mental health professionals.

Helping schools implement safety programs.

Addressing the cultural "glorification of violence" in movies, television, music and video games.

Thompson emphasized that Second Amendment rights to gun ownership will not be trampled, but also are "not unlimited."

Family traditions of hunting and recreational shooting should be respected by Congress, the task force proposals said.

Thompson said in the interview that he wants congressional Republicans to "know we're working to protect Second Amendment rights and keep their communities safe."

In the seven weeks since the fatal shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, more than 1,480 Americans have been killed by gunfire, an average of 30 a day, the task force report said.

Each year, an average of nearly 12,000 people are slain by firearms and 19,000 commit suicide using a gun.

Thompson said he has spoken with Sonoma County authorities about the fatal shooting of three men near Forestville this week and was aware of the 13-year-old Annapolis girl who died after shooting herself in the head with a .22-caliber revolver.

"We've got to do so much more in the area of intervention and mental health," he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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