Essential Politics: What it's like to learn there's a shooting in your congressional district

Essential Politics: What it's like to learn there's a shooting in your congressional district

I’m Christina Bellantoni, and this is Essential Politics.

There are enough lawmakers who have experienced it that Congress could sadly form a Mass Shootings Caucus.

California’s delegation was rocked Wednesday by news of another tragedy, learning during the day’s first series of votes about the mass shooting in San Bernardino.

Sarah Wire talked with emotional members who were working to reassure constituents, or comforting each other having been through it before. From her story:

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) said the news brought her back to May 2014, when she learned of the shooting in Isla Vista in her district.

"When it happens in your own community, you really are changed. It rocks you to the core," she said. "The tragedy of it. It forever changes a community."

She said fellow members would embrace [Rep. Pete] Aguilar and that community in the coming days. Dozens of lawmakers have found their districts the scenes of mass shootings.

"We become a family when this happens. Unfortunately there is a history here, it doesn’t affect just one member," Capps said. "There’s a lot of sympathy and reaching out now, but that needs to be sustained."

Read the story here.

It didn’t take much time Wednesday before politicians had their say, from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom suggesting the incidents reinforce his calls for stricter gun regulations to Donald Trump leading a moment of silence at a campaign rally.

Much remained unclear overnight, with one of the few certainties being that the nation was in mourning — again. That was President Obama’s strong message not long after news broke that shots had been fired.

"We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world," the president told CBS News.

Some Republicans questioned the need for more gun control, even as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accused Congress of "a debilitating fear of upsetting the gun lobby."

Outgoing Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins made her point in a coda attached to her statement Wednesday, one of dozens of issued in the hours after the shots were fired: "Part of us, sadly, also instinctively wants to start steeling ourselves for the news of the next one to come."

The Los Angeles Times team fanned out across the region to tell the story — reporting every last detail with caution — and offered readers a special section Thursday as we continued our 24/7 coverage.


We’ll be keeping up our liveblog of the climate talks in Paris as reporter Chris Megerian begins his assignment tracking the California delegation.

Why are so many Californians going to the summit? Megerian explains the Golden State’s unique role and previews what Gov. Jerry Brown and his contingent will be up to over the next week.

Megerian also profiled the scientists who advise Brown on climate issues. They are an interesting bunch. Two of them are even married.


A new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds a striking gap between the state’s overall adult population and likely voters: They don’t see eye to eye when it comes to allowing those without legal residency access to Medi-Cal.

John Myers takes a closer look at the numbers, a possible preview to gauging public opinion before the issue comes back to the state Capitol in 2016.

Cathleen Decker used the fresh figures to report in her column that contradictions rest at the core of the survey. The poll might show all is swell in California, but that a persistent unease suffuses the state on both the economic and political fronts.


— George Skelton writes about Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and her crusade against Scrooge-like charities.

Martin O'Malley gets the Mark Z. Barabak treatment.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) was scheduled to receive the Environmental Working Group’s courage award Wednesday night. Boxer, who is retiring at the end of her current term, is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. She is the first recipient of the award from the Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom got a rock star’s welcome in downtown Los Angeles from members of the California Nurses Assn. on Wednesday when the Democratic hopeful took the stage to receive the union’s endorsement in his 2018 campaign for governor, Javier Panzar reports. Confetti? Check. A mob of nurses with selfie sticks trying to get a piece of Newsom? Check.

He even joked the scene felt more like a victory party than an endorsement announcement for an election still three years away. Newsom talked up his liberal bonafides, thanked nurses for caring for his father, William Newsom, during his recent 13-day stay in a hospital and gave a shout-out to Gov. Jerry Brown as he quoted the Greek historian Plutarch on income inequality.

— Melanie Mason reports that state officials and advocates kicked off a publicity campaign to make sure California's poorest working families take advantage of a new tax credit available to them.

— A former Republican congressman who pushed to block the federal government from using tax dollars to fund research into gun violence in the 1990s wants Congress to lift the ban.

"It is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution," former Arkansas Rep. Jay Dickey said in the letter to House Democrats' Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).

The Task Force, created after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, has proposed legislation including expanded background checks for those purchasing guns.

"There is not one good reason to keep this ban in place," Thompson said in a news release. "Doctors agree, medical professionals agree, even the author of the amendment agrees: it's time to let our experts do what they do best — conduct research that will save some lives."


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