Rep. Mike Thompson blasts ‘gutless’ GOP senators blocking gun background check bill after deadly Texas school shooting
Rep. Mike Thompson faced a familiar litany of grim questions Tuesday afternoon in the wake of another deadly U.S. school shooting.
At least 19 children and a teacher had been killed hours earlier at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The gunman, 18, was shot dead by police.
Thompson, the House Democrats’ point man on gun control, was incensed.
For nearly a decade, his chief fight in Congress has been a campaign to pass universal gun background check legislation. Passed by the House, the bill has died repeatedly in the Senate.
Thompson aimed harsh words Tuesday at those standing in its way.
“What that boils down to is, there’s too many gutless senators sitting on their hands instead of taking action that will save lives,” said Thompson, the North Bay’s senior congressman.
Thompson is chairman of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
The Uvalde shooting is the latest of 212 mass shootings in the nation in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection and research group. A mass shooting is defined as four or more people injured or killed.
Thompson, D-St. Helena, reached by phone in his district, said his condolences would offer “little comfort to the parents of the kids who were murdered.”
“They don’t want to hear, ‘Thoughts and prayers,’ they don’t want to hear, ‘We need to pass this,’” he said. “They need to see action.”
Thompson, a Vietnam War veteran and lifelong hunter, first introduced his universal background checks bill in 2013. It would close a long-standing loophole in existing laws by expanding background checks to those purchasing weapons over the internet, at gun shows and through certain private transactions.
The House has passed it twice, most recently in March 2021. But it has languished in the Senate, where 60 members are needed to avoid a filibuster and advance the legislation to a vote.
Thompson blasted GOP opponents again Tuesday, calling out Texas’ two Republican senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
“We have to make sure that we stand up for community safety and stand up against gun violence,” Thompson said. “It seems to me that’s a pretty doggone easy one to do. If you don’t have the guts to do that, you need to find a new job.
“We should be hearing from the two Texas senators who have been obstacles to passing this legislation.”
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a proponent of Thompson’s background check bill in the Senate, delivered a passionate speech on the floor within hours of the shooting.
“What are we doing?” Murphy said, then paused. “What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands. What are we doing?”
His address referenced the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, which left 20 elementary students and six adults dead in his home state, and the racist May 14 shooting in Buffalo, New York, where 10 people were killed as they shopped for groceries.
Elected officials across the North Bay and state echoed Thompson’s call for urgent action.
“There are no words,” state Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said in a Twitter post. “I can’t imagine the grief and sorrow these families are facing. Crushing and horrific.
“Commonsense gun control is the only way to prevent this,” he continued. “Over 200 mass shootings across the United States this year. Enough is enough.”
Steve Herrington, Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools, called the news “heartbreaking and infuriating” and called for legislative action.
“We owe it to our students and teachers to provide a safe and secure environment for learning without turning our schools into fortresses. When parents or guardians send their children to our campuses, they should know they will return home safely at the end of the day,” Herrington said.
“Please know that our school districts are constantly evaluating the measures they have in place to keep their students and staff safe,” he said. “But vigilance and commitment at the local level is no substitute for strong federal action and changes in our nation’s laws that will ensure tragedies like those in Uvalde, Newtown, Parkland, and Columbine, among many others, stop happening.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein said the nation’s gun laws “are so lax, we don’t even require basic background checks for guns bought online, at gun shows or from private sellers. We can’t even keep guns out of the hands of children.”
“We have to act or more and more people will continue to die,” she said in a statement.
Thompson decried “dishonest” attacks on his legislation in the Senate, including disinformation that it would lead to a registry of all gun owners.
“Every time someone got up and said that, I would stand say, ‘That’s not true,’ and call out the page number and sentence number — here it specifically says there cannot be any list of gun owners,” he said. “Their theory is if they say the lie loud and often enough people are going to listen.”
Communities will be vulnerable to more bloodshed as partisan inaction persists, he said.
“As long as 10 Republican senators who would rather sit on their hands than help make their community safer, we’re going nowhere quick,” he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kaylee Tornay at 707-521-5250 or email@example.com. On Twitter @ka_tornay.
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