Rep. Thompson hosts forum on gun violence in Santa Rosa Thursday

Rep. Mike Thompson said the public forum on gun violence prevention that he is hosting Thursday in Santa Rosa will be a wide-ranging discussion of the divisive issue rekindled by last month's tragedy in Connecticut.

"Everything is on the table," said Thompson, D-St. Helena, who was named chairman of a congressional task force on gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

But Thompson, a hunter, gun owner and Vietnam combat veteran, refused to use the phrase "gun control" in an interview Friday.

The two words "create a divide that's not bridgeable," Thompson said, acknowledging the Second Amendment right to bear arms and saying "nobody's going to take that right away."

At the same time, Thompson reiterated his personal opposition to assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which he has said "have no place on our streets or in our communities."

Congressional Democrats have announced plans to push for bans on assault weapons, which are illegal in California, and magazines.

Thompson said his task force, which consists of of 12 other House Democrats, will develop legislative recommendations by the first week in February.

"The time to act is now," he said. "The American people want something done."

David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, acknowledged the difficulty inherent in gun control, distinguishing the weapons people need for hunting and protection from those more appropriate to warfare.

"Where you draw the line is awfully difficult," said Rabbitt, who is one of five local officials participating in the forum.

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