Pelosi vows House will act after mass shooting
With Dems taking reins, legislative push appears more likely
WASHINGTON — Since the collapse of bipartisan gun control legislation in 2013, a succession of gruesome mass shootings has been greeted on Capitol Hill by thoughts and prayers, then inaction. But the killing of 12 people late Wednesday at a California country and western bar came just 24 hours after Democrats — many of whom campaigned in support of gun control — regained the House majority in the midterm elections.
This time, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democrats’ longtime leader, promised a legislative response when her party takes control in January.
“I do believe” there will be action, Pelosi said in an interview Thursday on CNN, “because in this Congress, the one that we’re in right this minute, there is bipartisan legislation to have commonsense background checks, to prevent guns going into the wrong hands.”
The likely first push will be a version of the bill written after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 — subjecting almost all gun sales to a federal background check, including internet and gun show transactions. Newly elected representatives will descend on Washington next week for freshman orientation, mingling with veteran lawmakers and kicking off the legislative discussions.
“We want the new members to be a part of this conversation,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi.
A legislative lunge toward gun con trol in the inaugural months of the 116th Congress would offer up the first test for the new Democratic majority. The Republican majority in the Senate, fortified Tuesday with new conservative hardliners, has balked at any legislation that can be painted as curbing gun owners’ rights. After a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers last year at a suburban baseball field, Republicans actually pressed to loosen gun controls.
And Democrats could face their own divisions. A number of victorious Democrats campaigned on reducing gun violence and strengthening gun laws, including Lucy Mcbath of Georgia, whose son was killed in a 2012 shooting; Jason Crow, from the suburbs of Denver, who made rallying cries of the mass shootings at Columbine High School and an Aurora, Colo., movie theater; and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, a former CIA officer who supports a ban on certain firearms with militarystyle features.
“I hope that we take swift action and do it fairly soon to enact sensible gun law reform that will keep communities safe,” said Veronica Escobar, who will succeed Beto O’rourke as the House member from El Paso. “I’m so tired of being heartbroken — so tired of feeling worry and concern for my children and family. It’s about time we do something about it.”
“If the president or the Senate chooses not to support it, frankly, it’s on them,” she added, “but we have to try and we have to continue to try until we get it done.”
Gun safety marches and a new breed of advocates — most prominently March for Our Lives, the movement led by the teenage survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. — bolstered youngvoter turnout. Around two dozen candidates supported by the gun lobby were defeated Tuesday, according to Giffords PAC, the gun safety group run by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a mass shooting in 2011.
“I think we need to find a way to work together to find some real solutions to reduce gun violence, consistent with the Second Amendment,” said Colin Allred, who ousted a veteran Republican, Pete Sessions, in the Dallas area.
Some incoming freshmen are warning against overpromising or politicizing a tragedy.
“As Democrats, we should not try to make this a political issue that is about gun legislation, because any of the gun legislation we’re advocating for would not have prevented this,” said Katie Hill, who defeated Rep. Steve Knight in a California district near Wednesday’s shooting. “We lose credibility if we try to make it as if it would’ve.”
The gunman, a former Marine, bought his handgun legally in a state with some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.
Shooting survivor Devin Brevig (left) stood with his sister Alexa Brevig and their mother Friday outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The state’s gun laws — among the nation’s toughest — didn’t stop the man who killed a dozen people at the bar Wednesday night from buying his handgun legally.