Congress set for gun con­trol fight

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY MATTHEW DALY As­so­ci­ated Press

Mourn­ers watch a mo­tor­cade with the body of Ven­tura County Sher­iff’s

Sgt. Ron Helus pass by in New­bury Park, Calif. Helus was fa­tally shot while re­spond­ing to a mass shoot­ing at a bar in nearby Thou­sand Oaks. More on 9A

Wash­ing­ton — Newly as­cen­dant Democrats are promis­ing con­gres­sional ac­tion on gun con­trol amid a rash of mass shoot­ings, in­clud­ing a late-night as­sault at a Cal­i­for­nia bar that killed 12 peo­ple.

Mea­sures in­clud­ing ex­panded back­ground checks and a ban on as­sault-style weapons are likely to reach the House floor when Democrats re­take con­trol af­ter eight years of Repub­li­can rule.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve real ac­tion to end the daily epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence that is steal­ing the lives of our chil­dren on cam­puses, in places of wor­ship and on our streets,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia, the Demo­cratic leader who is run­ning for a sec­ond stint as House speaker.

Pelosi vowed to push for a range of ac­tions to stem gun vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing re­stric­tions on high-ca­pac­ity mag­a­zines and a mea­sure al­low­ing tem­po­rary re­moval of guns from peo­ple deemed an im­mi­nent risk to them­selves or oth­ers.

The mea­sures could win ap­proval in the Demo­cratic-con­trolled House next year but will face op­po­si­tion from the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate and the White House, where Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has promised to “pro­tect the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

Still, gun con­trol ad­vo­cates be­lieve they

have the po­lit­i­cal mo­men­tum to make guns a cen­tral is­sue next year.

The po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­lus on guns is chang­ing, said Demo­cratic Rep. Ted Deutch, whose Florida dis­trict in­cludes the Park­land high school where 17 peo­ple were killed in Fe­bru­ary.

“We saw it start on Tues­day and we’re go­ing to see it ac­cel­er­ate in Jan­uary,” he said.

Gun con­trol was a ma­jor is­sue even be­fore the most re­cent shoot­ings. Law­mak­ers de­bated ac­tion fol­low­ing the Park­land at­tack and a 2017 shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas that left 58 dead, and ul­ti­mately took mod­est steps to boost school safety funds and im­prove com­pli­ance with the fed­eral back­ground check sys­tem for gun pur­chases.

The Democrats’ new ma­jor­ity in­cludes dozens of can­di­dates who sup­port gun con­trol, in­clud­ing Lucy Mc­Bath in Ge­or­gia, whose 17-year-old son was fa­tally shot in 2012 and who made gun vi­o­lence the cen­ter­piece of her cam­paign

At least 17 newly elected House Democrats back stricter gun laws, in­clud­ing Jen­nifer Wex­ton, Abi­gail Span­berger and Elaine Luria in Vir­ginia, who de­feated in­cum­bents backed by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. In Col­orado, Demo­crat Ja­son Crow beat GOP Rep. Mike Coff­man, who re­ceived an A rat­ing from the NRA and more than $37,000 in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from the group.

“I do think there’s new en­ergy” on gun is­sues, even be­fore the Cal­i­for­nia as­sault late Wed­nes­day night and an Oct. 27 shoot­ing that killed 11 peo­ple at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue, said Kris Brown, co-pres­i­dent of the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence.

“Our base is worked up, and peo­ple are re­act­ing in a pos­i­tive way at the bal­lot box,” said Brown, who cam­paigned with the three Vir­ginia Democrats in the fi­nal week along­side a stream of vol­un­teers. “A large num­ber of folks showed up and knocked on doors and said they fi­nally have a can­di­date who will do some­thing about gun vi­o­lence,” she said.

Wex­ton, Span­berger and Luria all made gun vi­o­lence a cen­tral is­sue in their cam­paigns – dis­prov­ing the no­tion that gun con­trol is a “third rail” of pol­i­tics that Democrats should not talk about, Brown said. “We’re find­ing can­di­dates who aren’t afraid to talk about this is­sue,” she said.

Spend­ing to sup­port can­di­dates back­ing tougher gun con­trol surged this year, even as cam­paign spend­ing by the NRA de­clined. Every­town for Gun Safety, a group founded by for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pledged $30 mil­lion for this year’s elec­tions and con­tin­ued to put new money into com­pet­i­tive races in the fi­nal days. A po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee formed by Gabby Gif­fords, the for­mer Ari­zona con­gress­woman wounded in a shoot­ing, spent nearly $5 mil­lion.

Sixty-one per­cent of vot­ers who re­sponded to VoteCast, a sur­vey of the elec­torate con­ducted by The As­so­ci­ated Press, said they sup­port stricter gun laws, com­pared with 8 per­cent who said they should be loos­ened. Eighty-six per­cent of those sup­port­ing Demo­cratic can­di­dates backed stricter gun laws, along with 34 per­cent of those who sup­ported Repub­li­cans.

Mc­Bath said her vic­tory over Repub­li­can Rep. Karen Han­del sent a strong mes­sage to the coun­try. “Ab­so­lutely noth­ing – no politi­cian & no spe­cial in­ter­est – is more pow­er­ful than a mother on a mis­sion,” she said in a tweet.

Mc­Bath, an African-Amer­i­can, be­came a spokes­woman for Every­town for Gun Safety af­ter her son was slain at a Florida gas sta­tion by a white man an­gry over the loud mu­sic the black teenager and his friends had been play­ing in their car.

While en­cour­aged by the elec­tion re­sults, gun con­trol ad­vo­cates know that get­ting any kind of weapons or am­mu­ni­tion ban signed into law will be dif­fi­cult if not im­pos­si­ble in the next Congress.

Repub­li­cans ex­panded their Se­nate ma­jor­ity Tues­day and Trump re­mains a fa­vored ally of the NRA.

But if the House votes to ap­prove gun con­trol and a bill is pend­ing in the Se­nate, “it’s harder to ig­nore,” Brown said. “We can keep the pres­sure on.”

Deutch said gun con­trol op­po­nents would be wise to heed Tues­day’s re­sults.

For years, GOP law­mak­ers thought they could avoid talk­ing about gun con­trol while ac­cept­ing cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from the NRA and pro­mot­ing an A rat­ing from the group, he said. “They learned this week that just won’t work any­more,” Deutch said.

Mar­cio Jose Sanchez / AP

Al Goldis / AP

Gretchen Whit­mer

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