Thompson: "Reduce Gun Violence, Respect 2nd Amendment Rights"

North Bay Congressman speaks after Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Hearing.


U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, said Wednesday his gun violence prevention task force is working toward policies that both protect 2nd Amendment rights and also serve to reduce gun violence.

Also Wednesday, Thompson and other Bay Area leaders called for action on the issue at a meeting in San Francisco.

“Gun violence is a complex problem with complex solutions," said Thompson, who hosted a series of public forums around the North Bay on the issue earlier this month.

"To address it, we need a comprehensive approach that’s developed by having every idea on the table and everyone at the table," he said. "That’s the approach my task force has taken since day one, and it’s the approach the Senate started today."

Thompson held public forums in Santa Rosa and among other North Bay towns.

“As a hunter and gun owner I will not give up my guns and I will not ask other law-abiding Americans to give up theirs," Thompson said Wednesday.

"Not only am I personally against this, the Supreme Court made it clear in the Heller case that the Constitution won’t allow it," he said. "But as a father and grandfather, I also know we have a responsibility to keep our kids, communities and country safe from gun violence."

Since the North Bay forums, Thompson has been meeting with Vice President Joe Bden and other senior federal officials to formulate a plan.

“This debate isn't a choice between either protecting the Second Amendment or reducing gun violence," he said.  "It's about the willingness of a responsible majority to do both.

"By working together – both across the aisle and between Congressional chambers and branches of government – we can put policies in place that reduce gun violence and respect the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” Thompson said.

Later Wednesday, national and local leaders spoke out in San Francisco about
efforts to move forward on the discussion to prevent gun violence at the
city, state and federal level.

The meeting held Wednesday afternoon at the Omega Boys Club at 1060
Tennessee St. included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jackie
Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, San
Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and police Chief Greg Suhr.          

The panel addressed guns and violence issues and concerns raised by audience members who were from local community organizations, faith groups, schools and health groups.

"It is necessary for us to act," Pelosi said, heading off the discussion about gun violence in cities across America.

Speier and Thompson sit on a Democratic congressional gun violence task force that has held hearings in the past month to come up with recommendations based on testimonies from different groups invested in gun
control issues.

Speier noted that handling the growing rate of gun violence is "our collective problem."

She mentioned the 680 guns collected last weekend in San Mateo County at a gun buyback program she sponsored.

Lee alluded to similar buyback programs in the works within San Francisco.

"We have to erase the attitude that violence can resolve something," Lee said.

At the city level, Lee said whenever he is told about a youth who is killed by a gun he "pictures who that youth was and who she or he could have become."

He called on the community to take gun violence personally and not leave it up to politicians or law enforcement to solve the problem.

Chief Suhr mentioned the set of recommendations Obama proposed earlier this month and said we need to support the president in pushing forward efforts to combat violence.

Thompson has been holding a series of town hall meetings in his district in Sonoma County this past month which he said is a key component in coming up with a "comprehensive solution to this very serious problem."

He cited 30-plus gun-related deaths occurring daily in the U.S. as a staggering statistic that needs to be cut back.

"We have a responsibility to come together and work together," he said.

At today's meeting he was candid about owning guns and being a hunter -- he said when he heard about the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 20 children dead while he was duck hunting in Yolo County.

"I also believe strongly in the Second Amendment," he said. "We can address this in an responsible way and respect the right to own firearms."

He said today's community meeting was a step in addressing the issue, and proceeded to take a question from woman who identified herself as a shooting victim and asked about legislative efforts to enact universal background checks.

Thompson acknowledged that a majority of law-abiding gun owners
are in support of background checks and said, "it is not an inconvenience,"
as some gun advocates have claimed.

Pelosi said the takeaway from today's meeting is "seize the moment."
"This is a fight," she said, "We have to do something."

She emphasized that a clear message such as demanding background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is needed to
enact change.

The Congressional task force is expected to share recommendations
with Pelosi by the end of the first week of February, Thompson said.

---Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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