Thompson to host forum on gun violence
A public forum on preventing gun violence will be hosted by Rep. Mike Thomson, D-St. Helena, at the Sonoma County Supervisors meeting room at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Thompson, who was sworn in to his new 5th District Congressional seat on Jan. 3, was named chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Dec. 19, by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The purpose of the task force, said Pelosi in announcing Thompson’s role in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, is to “be able to tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.”
Thompson is a combat veteran from the Vietnam war, a gun owner and hunter and former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus.
“I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used,” he said in a prepared statement upon announcement of his appointment. “Military-type assault weapons and assault magazines have no place on our streets or in our communities. We also need to consider instituting more detailed background checks and making sure appropriate mental health services are available.”
Asked why the task force was established by the minority party in the House of Representatives, Thompson communications director Austin Vevurka said he couldn’t speak for the Republican party.
“The task force was created because it was time for Congress to take action on this issue,” Vevurka said.
He added that Thursday’s public forum would provide opportunity for members of the public to suggest courses of action and to express their opinions about gun control and preventing gun violence.
“There will be a Q&A period, and there will be experts on hand,” Vevurka said. “The Congressman has said this will be a listening session. He wants to hear ideas from people in the audience. He will take back the best ideas for making society safer from gun violence and report them to the task force.”
Task Force vice chairs were named Jan. 4, and include:
• Rep. Ron Barber, former district director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was standing with Giffords when both were shot exactly a year ago. Barber recovered from gunshot injuries and ran for Giffords’ seat in Congress when she gave it up to focus on her recovery.
• Rep. John Dingle, D-Mich., the dean of the House of Representatives, an avid hunter and a primary author of legislation improving the national criminal background check system.
• Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Ill., is a retired major general in the Illinois National Guard, spent 35 years in the military, is a gun owner, hunter and conservationist.
• Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., represents Newtown, Conn., in Congress.
• Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., created a successful gun buyback program in Philadelphia that removed thousands of guns in exchange for grocery coupons.
• Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., is a former nurse who campaigned for gun control after her husband was murdered and her son was critically wounded during a mass shooting in 1993 on the Long Island Railroad. She was elected to Congress after defeating an opponent of the assault weapons ban.
• Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Mental health Caucus and introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act to implement on-site mental health services for schools.
• Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., represented the City of Aurora during the movie theater shooting last July, and he represented the area around Columbine High School when he served in the Colorado State Senate.
• Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, is ranking member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.
• Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
• Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is a survivor of the Jonestown massacre in which Rep. Leo Ryan was killed. She herself was shot five times and still carries two bullets in her body. She has become a persistent advocate of gun control.
• Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairs the bipartisan Congressional Sportman’s Caucus and has served on the House Committee on Homeland Security since 2007.
Vevurka said the focus of the task force will not be “taking away guns. That’s not Mike’s position. There is no single solution, and it’s not taking away everyone’s guns. He’s already said we need to stop the assault weapons and large magazines. But he also wants to look the culture of violence in this country, the influence of the entertainment industry, and many other options.”
The task force expects to hold numerous public meetings and hearings with recognized experts, and then assemble the best proposals to reduce gun violence into a set of policy proposals by early February.
The Thursday forum will be open to the public, and will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Supervisors Chambers, 575 Administration Drive in Santa Rosa.