Gun control tour stops in Md.
Vocal Majority Bus Tour is led by former Rep. Giffords, who was seriously injured
Rep. Chris Van Hollen joined a group headed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Tuesday to call on voters to vote for candidates who back gun control measures they deem “common sense.”
The Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate made the push in Annapolis with members of the Americans for Responsible Solutions political action committee, led by Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly. Giffords was shot in the head in 2011 in Tucson, Ariz., and suffered a severe brain injury.
Van Hollen said it was “despicable” that the Republican majority in Congress has rejected motions from Democrats to bring gun control legislation to a vote. Democrats have proposed legislation to require universal criminal background checks for all gun sales and to ban sales to those on the FBI’s terrorism no-fly list.
Van Hollen and other Maryland Democrats participated in a sit-in in June to protest the lack of legislative action on the measures.
“That’s why you saw the filibuster. That’s why you saw the sit-in,” Van Hollen said. “They call it ‘The People’s House,’ but the people in this country were not even given the opportunity to have a vote on these common-sense gun measures.”
House Republican officials called the protest a publicity stunt.
State Del. Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore County, Van Hollen’s Republican opponent in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, has advocated stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, but has not expressed support for the legislation introduced by Democrats.
She did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
She has said she would take a broader approach to addressing violence. She has spoken of “radical Islam that has spilled over to our country” and “those who are severely mentally disturbed and have a tendency to act out violently.”
Tuesday’s news conference was part of a nationwide push to spur voters to the polls on the issue. The Vocal Majority Bus Tour highlights polls that show a majority of Americans supporting measures such as requiring criminal background checks.
Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, called for federal action because “too many guns flow into our communities from states” with more relaxed gun laws.
“About 90 people are killed every day with a gun,” she said. “There are real faces and real people suffering from the excruciating pain of losing someone to this violence.”
Van Hollen has proposed creating federal financial incentives for states to enact handgun-licensing programs such as the one approved in Maryland in 2013.
The state law requires handgun purchasers to be fingerprinted and pass a training class while barring those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution from owning a firearm.
Szeliga voted against that legislation in 2013.
Del. Kathleen Dumais, a Montgomery County Democrat who championed that bill, said Tuesday that stricter federal laws are needed. She and Van Hollen urged support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The National Rifle Association, which opposes much of the legislation discussed Tuesday, has supported Republican nominee Donald Trump.
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