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PD Editorial: Thompson poised for victory on gun safety

On Monday, Napa police arrested a teenage boy who they say was planning mass shootings at two local schools.

A day later, in Washington, Rep. Mike Thompson re-introduced legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers.

Thompson's bill, by itself, wouldn't stop a mass shooting in a school in his North Bay district or anywhere else. But it would recognize that firearms are a potential threat to public safety and subject them to limited, but meaningful, regulation.

Thompson has been pushing for universal background checks since a mentally disturbed young man shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a few days before Christmas in 2012. But he hasn't gotten a vote in a Republican-controlled House.

His latest proposal was unveiled Tuesday, not because of the incident in his home district, but because it was the eighth anniversary of a mass shooting in a Tucson, Arizona shopping center parking. Six people were killed at a “Congress on your corner” event hosted by then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was one of 19 people wounded by gunfire that day. The assailant was twice found mentally incompetent to stand trial before pleading guilty to murder after undergoing therapy.

Giffords joined Thompson and other lawmakers at Tuesday's news conference.

“Since Gabby's shooting, nearly 250,000 lives have been lost to gun violence, and over 800,000 Americans have been the victim of gun violence, all the time while Congress stood by and did nothing,” Thompson said. “But today is a new day. Today, we have a new speaker, and today we have a new majority. And today, we're going to take decisive action.”

For the first time, Thompson is in position to get his bill through the House - and it's likely to be approved with bipartisan support.

Thompson reached out to Republicans from the start and already had an ally in Rep. Pete King, a New York Republican who is as co-sponsor of H.R. 8, the new bill. Now, four other Republican representatives have signed on: Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Brian Mast of Florida, Christopher Smith of New Jersey and Fred Upton of Michigan.

Unfortunately, there's little reason to believe the GOP-controlled Senate would consider Thompson's bill. And President Donald Trump, a Second Amendment absolutist, almost certainly would veto it.

That's astonishingly shortsighted. This is a modest proposal. It wouldn't outlaw any firearms. It wouldn't prevent anyone who is legally entitled to own a gun from purchasing one. It simply closes a loophole in federal law that allows people who aren't supposed to possess firearms - such as felons and people with serious mental illnesses - to buy them anyway at gun shows, on the internet or from private parties.

Under Thompson's bill, those sales, like sales by licensed gun dealers, would require a background check.

California already requires background checks on all firearms sales. An analysis of federal data by USA Today ranked California 43rd among the 50 states for gun violence.

Thompson's proposal isn't a panacea, but it would strike a reasonable balance between gun owners' rights and public safety in a nation that experiences about 30,000 gun-related deaths every year.

The House should pass Thompson's common-sense legislation and dare the Senate and the president to say no.

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