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Gun background checks bill by Rep. Mike Thompson gets House committee hearing

Thompson on Gun Control

Rep.

Mike Thompson, the St. Helena Democrat, is a lifelong hunter, Vietnam War veteran and chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Read more about his views on gun control here.

It was a hearing six years in the making.

For the first time since Rep. Mike Thompson introduced his proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases in 2013, a House committee held a hearing Wednesday to consider the proposal by the St. Helena Democrat.

The hearing, titled “Preventing Gun Violence: A Call to Action,” was convened by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, signaling a major shift in direction for the House under Democratic control for the first time since 2011.

No hearings or votes had been held since Thompson and Rep. Peter King, R-New York, offered a background checks bill in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 students and six adults in late 2012.

“For far too long, Republicans in Congress have offered moments of silence instead of action in the wake of gun tragedies. That era is over,” Nadler said, opening the hearing that lasted five hours and ended without committee action.

Thompson said he was invited by Nadler to sit with the hearing’s eight witnesses, including Dr. Joseph Sakran, a Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon who was Thompson’s guest at Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech.

Another witness was Aalayah Eastmond, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, by hiding under a slain classmate’s body as bullets flew around her.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Eastmond, who wants to become a criminal defense lawyer.

She got a standing ovation after her remarks to the committee.

Thompson said he talked with Eastmond before the hearing and found her “an impressive young woman who I think did a magnificent job on the witness stand.”

“She talked about wanting change: being part of this vocal and concerned student population who is tired of living in fear and wants Congress to do some work,” he said.

Thompson, who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said he was “over the moon to get the hearing.”

Republican leaders refused to bring the King-Thompson bill to a hearing, and Thompson made a renewed push this year with a measure that goes further, requiring background checks for all firearms sales. No date was set for a committee vote or consideration on the House floor, but Thompson said he is confident of approval with 231 co-sponsors, including five Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco has called the background checks bill a commonsense measure and cited polls showing more than 90 percent of Americans support checks on all gun buyers.

Thompson’s measure may face tougher going in the Senate, which rejected background checks in 2013, with five Democrats joining 41 Republicans in denying the 60 votes needed for approval.

“We’ll put it on their doorstep,” he said. “The will of the people is on our side. The senators will hear from their constituents.”

The Association Press and South Florida Sun Sentinel contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

Thompson on Gun Control

Rep.

Mike Thompson, the St. Helena Democrat, is a lifelong hunter, Vietnam War veteran and chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Read more about his views on gun control here.

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