WASHINGTON — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), joined by members of her caucus personally touched by gun violence, launched a drive Wednesday to build support for new gun restrictions.
“All too often, we see these mass killings, and we mourn for those that have died in the past. And yet ... this time, it is different, and we all know it,” said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), a leading gun control advocate whose husband was killed and son wounded by a gunman on a Long Island train in 1993.
Americans, she said, are “fed up with the gun violence ... fed up with the gun lobby ... fed up with the lack of courage here in Washington.”
Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), wounded with his former boss, ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a January 2011 shooting rampage outside a Tucson grocery store, recalled that day.
“In 45 seconds, 30 bullets were discharged from one clip,” he said. “In 45 seconds, 19 people were down, six of them died.”
Pelosi announced that Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), a gun owner and hunter, would lead a Democratic task force to examine a “comprehensive approach” to reducing gun violence, including a better system of background checks for gun purchases and expanding mental health services.
“I’ve been a hunter all my life and there’s no reason to have a magazine that holds 30 shells,” Thompson said.
Republicans have been reluctant to discuss their position on gun legislation.
Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), said, “We join President Obama and all Americans in mourning the victims of this awful tragedy. When the vice president’s group makes specific proposals, we will take a look. Right now our focus is, and should be, on the victims, their families and their community.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said he would have liked his colleague, Rep. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.), to be in attendance at the news conference.
“But he’s in Newtown attending funerals,” he said.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), whose district was the scene of the Aurora movie theater shooting in July that left 12 dead and dozens wounded, and McCarthy will be the House sponsors of an updated assault weapons ban to be introduced in the new Congress in January. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who authored the 1994 assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004, is the Senate’s lead sponsor.
Gun control advocates face a battle in the Republican-controlled House. A McCarthy measure targeting ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds has languished in committee. But gun control advocates note it has picked up Democratic cosponsors since the Connecticut shooting.