WASHINGTON – One week after President Barack Obama’s announcement of his new gun control proposals,a House Democratic taskforce held a briefing to discuss what legislative steps Congress could take to promote gun safety while respecting the Second Amendment.
Dr. Robert K. Ross,president and CEO of The California Endowment, which grants money to community health initiatives in the state,showed a video of 33 school-aged children in California who are demanding a plan for gun control action after the Newtown,Conn.,shootings. The video shows kids saying,“No more violence,” “Not on my playground” and “Every day 14 kids are murdered. Demand a plan.”
“Sensible gun policies alone are not enough to keep our communities safe,” Ross said. “The key to preventing violence is understanding who is pulling the trigger.”
The Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force,chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson,D-Calif.,also included Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz,D-Fla.,who introduced the first assault weapons ban in 1994,and Rep. Ron Barber,D-Ariz.,who served as a district director for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and was injured when a gunman shot at Giffords and her staff while they were meeting with constituents outside of a supermarket in Tucson,Ariz.
The measures that Democratic members of Congress plan to introduce Thursday are in line with most of Obama’s proposals. Most noticeably,they call for more funding for mental health care and mental health examinations and treatment at schools.
Jeannie Campbell,executive vice president of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare,told the taskforce that one in five Americans has an undiagnosed mental illness. She emphasized the need for mental health care for combat veterans,of which nearly a third will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ross agreed. “Every student needs a mental health checkup,just like they need a physical,” he said. Since 2009,almost $4.3 billion has been cut from California’s mental health care services.
The group also weighed the pros and cons of reintroducing an assault weapons ban,along with the possibility of banning high capacity magazines.
“It is inconceivable to me that any American needs more than a 15-round magazine to defend themselves,” said David Chipman, former special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco,Firearms and Explosives.
The members of Congress questioned the National Rifle Association’s plan for safer schools.
“I don’t believe that having armed guards at schools is productive,” said James Cummings,an NRA member. He is a commercial contractor from Florida who has hunted all over the world and owns more than 150 guns. Cummings said he does not agree with the NRA’s position on guns in schools. “I would hate to see a second- or third-grade teacher carrying guns,” he said.
Reach Reporter Jess Miller at [email protected] or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.