Gun con­trol back on the ta­ble

Af­ter Democrats take the House, mea­sures could ad­vance in 2019

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By Rob Ryser

NEW­TOWN — Cal­i­for­nia’s lat­est gun vi­o­lence is pres­sur­ing Wash­ing­ton law­mak­ers once again to con­front Amer­ica’s mass-shooting cri­sis.

For New­town ac­tivists, the call for gun-safety laws is an all-too-fre­quent ap­peal for na­tional ac­tion that has failed to bring sig­nif­i­cant changes since the 2012 shooting of 26 first­graders and ed­u­ca­tors at Sandy Hook School.

But some­thing changed last week that has both sides of the gun-pol­icy de­bate here ex­pect­ing more move­ment on fed­eral gun safety leg­is­la­tion in 2019.

The ma­jor­ity that vot­ers gave Democrats in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on Tues­day means a se­ries of gun-vi­o­lence-preven­tion mea­sures could ad­vance in 2019, in­clud­ing univer­sal back­ground checks and a ban on as­sault ri­fles.

Ni­cole Hock­ley, the high-pro­file mother of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook shoot­ings, was quick to point out it’s un­cer­tain what the dis­po­si­tion will be in the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Se­nate and the White House.

“I be­lieve the House will put for­ward lots of mea­sure about ac­cess and gun safety and men­tal health, but I don’t know how the Se­nate will re­spond,” said Hock­ley, a co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the non­profit Sandy Hook Prom­ise. “But I think we are see­ing a lot more pressure on Congress from around the coun­try for Amer­i­cans to do some­thing mean­ing­ful to stop this epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence.”

“I think we are see­ing a lot more pressure on Congress from around the coun­try for Amer­i­cans to do some­thing mean­ing­ful to stop this epi­demic of gun vi­o­lence.”

Ni­cole Hock­ley, a co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Sandy Hook Prom­ise

In that spirit, the New­town-based trade as­so­ci­a­tion for the firearms in­dus­try said on Fri­day that it wel­comes mea­sures to keep guns away from chil­dren, crim­i­nals, the dan­ger­ously men­tally ill, and those who can­not be trusted to han­dle firearms safely and re­spon­si­bly.

“We will eval­u­ate any leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced through that prism,” said Michael Bazinet, a spokesman for the 12,000-mem­ber Na­tional Shooting Sports Foun­da­tion, adding leg­is­la­tion would have to sup­port the Sec­ond Amend­ment rights of Amer­i­cans.

It is not the first time Sandy Hook Prom­ise and the NSSF have some­what agreed on gun pol­icy.

In March, both or­ga­ni­za­tions praised bills signed by Pres­i­dent Donald Trump that closed re­port­ing loop­holes in the na­tional firearms back­ground check sys­tem, and that pro­vided $100 mil­lion in grants for vi­o­lence-preven­tion pro­grams, such as those run by Sandy Hook Prom­ise.

The midterm elec­tion of Ja­hana Hayes as the 5th District’s new con­gress­woman, along with a wave of Democrats who ran on plat­forms to pass gun-vi­o­lence-preven­tion laws, will have Sec­ond Amend­ment ac­tivists watch­ing closely.

“Those Con­gres­sional electees have won some power back,” said Scott Wil­son, pres­i­dent of the 30,000-mem­ber Con­necti­cut Cit­i­zens De­fense League. “Hope­fully they will have dis­cus­sions that can im­prove safety with­out im­pact­ing on le­gal gun own­ers.”

Wil­son, whose group en­dorsed Hayes’ GOP op­po­nent Manny San­tos, said the sus­pect in Wed­nes­day’s shooting in Cal­i­for­nia was first and fore­most a law­breaker whose crime could not have been an­tic­i­pated and pre­vented by leg­is­la­tion.

The sus­pect, a dec­o­rated for­mer Marine iden­ti­fied as Ian David Long, was ac­cused of mur­der­ing 12 peo­ple with a Glock hand­gun at a col­lege bar in Thou­sand Oaks, and then killing him­self.

“Any­body can snap and there is no pre­cau­tion for that,” Wil­son said.

The leader of the non­profit New­town Ac­tion Al­liance dis­agreed, say­ing now is the time for gun-vi­o­lence-preven­tion leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing back­ground checks on all gun sales and rais­ing the min­i­mum age for gun sales to 21.

“We have learned that if a mass shooting can hap­pen in an ele­men­tary school in Sandy Hook, then it can hap­pen any­where,” said Po Murray, chair of the New­town Ac­tion Al­liance, in a pre­pared state­ment. “Un­til the fed­eral govern­ment puts pub­lic safety first by pass­ing a set of com­pre­hen­sive gun-con­trol laws, more and more Amer­i­cans ev­ery­where will be killed or in­jured.”

The NRA did not re­spond to a re­quest for comment on Fri­day.

A spokesman for Hayes — who was on va­ca­tion and not avail­able for comment — said she was com­mit­ted to mak­ing gun-vi­o­lence preven­tion a pri­or­ity in 2019.

“Ja­hana made the need for gun re­form a ma­jor com­po­nent of her cam­paign, ab­so­lutely,” Andrew Doba said.

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