Rep. Mike Thompson’s gun background check bill advancing to hearing

Rep. Mike Thompson’s campaign to curb gun violence through mandated background checks on firearms purchases appears to be on the verge of success - six years after the Connecticut school massacre that inspired it.

With members of Thompson’s party in control of the House, the St. Helena Democrat’s bill - the most expansive background checks measure he has introduced since 2013 - is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

And with 229 co-sponsors, including five Republicans, Thompson anticipates a House floor vote approving the measure he has backed since the slaying of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

“This is a new day: We will have a hearing and we will get results,” Thompson said in a statement. “No longer will Congress be silent on this issue.”

The silence has been enforced by Republican House leadership since Thompson and a New York Republican, Rep. Pete King, first proposed expanded background checks for gun purchases in 2013, with 150 co-sponsors.

“We’re more than half-way home, but we still have a lot of work to do. We’re not giving up,” the two lawmakers said in a statement at the time.

Thompson had been appointed chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting and included background checks in the panel’s first recommendations in February 2013.

A gun owner, hunter and Vietnam War combat veteran, Thompson made a point from the start that background checks were not an assault on Second Amendment rights and were intended to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people.

It took the wave of Democrats sworn into office last month to bring about Wednesday’s hearing, called by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler of New York.

Thompson is the lead author the bill, H.R. 8, which states simply that it would “require a background check for every firearm sale.”

The list of co-sponsors includes 44 California Democrats, all but two of the state’s Democratic delegation.

“The U.S. House of Representatives is finally taking action to prevent gun violence. Our new majority is answering the call of the American people,” Thompson said.

The influx of Democrats also bolstered Thompson’s task force to a record 172 members, up from 148 in the previous Congress. The all-Democrat roster now includes 37 first-year members, with two - Reps. Jason Crow of Colorado and Lucy McBath of Georgia - serving as vice chairs.

Two others, Reps. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, are deputy whips.

“My community knows the horror of gun violence all too well and it is my goal that we never see what happened in Aurora, what happened in Columbine occur ever again,” said Crow, whose district includes the sites of the mass shootings at an Aurora movie theater in 2012 and Columbine High School in 1999.

Crow, an Army Ranger veteran, upset Republican incumbent Mike Coffman in November, becoming the first Democrat to represent the suburban Denver district.

In addition to King, of New York, the Republican co-sponsors are Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Brian Mast of Florida, Christopher Smith of New Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan.

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