January 5th, 2013
04:34 PM ET
10 years ago

Don't call it gun control, says Democrats' point person on the issue

(CNN) - The Californian picked to lead congressional Democrats' efforts on gun control says the positions held by some gun rights advocates are unnecessarily divisive, and that government action should go beyond simply outlawing certain weapons.

"I think assault weapons are a pox on the home of every gun owner," Rep. Mike Thompson said Saturday on CNN. "I think that's the thing that's going to cause the overwhelming majority of people in this country who aren't gun owners to have negative feelings about those of us who are gun owners."

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Thompson is a gun owner and hunter himself, as well as a member of and former leader of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. Before his career in politics, Thompson was a staff sergeant in the Army. When noting his opposition to assault weapons, he recalls, "I carried one in Vietnam."

He is leading the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, the group appointed by fellow Californian and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In her words, the panel will work with President Barack Obama and others to "ban assault weapons and assault magazines."

Obama separately named a group led by Vice President Joe Biden and called for "meaningful action" to prevent future mass shootings.

Supporters of gun control said the December 14 shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 students dead was even more horrific than other recent mass shootings and marked a turning point in the discussion.

They have introduced dozens of gun-related bills in the new Congress, which began on Thursday, including proposals to renew the assault weapons ban which lapsed in 2004 and has not been reinstated since.

Meanwhile some opponents of gun control, including the National Rifle Association, say the Newtown shooting and other incident point to the need for reform in the other direction: putting guns in the hands of security guards, school administrators and teachers who could use weapons to protect their students.

A CNN/ORC poll conducted in mid-December days after the Connecticut shooting found 15% of American supported making all guns illegal, 37% supported major restrictions on guns, 33% supported minor restrictions, and 13% supported no restrictions on guns. Support for a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons stood at 62%. Forty six percent said the government and society could take actions to prevent another mass shooting, and 53% said that was not possible. It had a sampling error of plus or minus four points.

Thompson said all sides should be at the table, "but you're not going to solve this issue by arming every school teacher or every principal."

He has specifically said he favors outlawing assault weapons and large ammunition magazines, strengthening requirements for background checks on gun purchasers, and "making sure appropriate mental health services are available."

Among the members of his panel are freshman Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who now represents the area including Newtown; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband was killed in a 1993 mass shooting; and Rep. Ron Barber, who was wounded in the 2011 Arizona mass shooting which nearly killed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Barber was her chief of staff and was elected to the seat after her resignation.

The phrase "gun control," Thompson said, is not comprehensive enough for the discussion.

"A lot of times when you talk about gun control, you turn off more than half of your audience," he said in the interview. Possible solutions can include "everything from the background checks to the assault magazines, the assault weapons, the mental health (system) capacities that we have, our culture of violence that seems to be so overwhelming right now."

Filed under: Gun rights
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There does need to be a better phrasing because "gun control" gives the wrong impression. We are trying to make sure that people are able to have weapons for hunting and self defense. Assault weapons like the ones the military uses aren't for the average citizens. I don't know what need there is for these kind of weapons.

    January 5, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    This gemtleman had many good things to contribute here. I do think it is essential to avoid multiple separate bills. The president asked Biden to assemble a task force which should contain equal members from both parties and should come up with one bill to pass both houses of congress.
    For me three big elements are
    1) a law regulating the guns that may be sold and a significantly improved background check sysytem and registration system or licensing system just like driving licenses. And sales only thru licensed gun dealers.
    2) Ban the sales of ammunition over the internet and magazines for any gun that can fire more than 10 bullets. the gun laws should rban the production of modifications that enable more than one clip/ magazine on any Gun
    3) Assault weapons have to banned and this is only realistic if a re-purchASE PLAN SCHEDULED OVER A PERIOD OF TIME BY STATE. CONCEALED CARRY SHOULD BE ILLEGAL NATIONALLY.

    January 5, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  3. Mark

    STOP, just stop. There are far more deadly killers in our society than firearms. Start with cigarettes. Those are still legal, but big business keeps them around, not too mention the cost of treating the morons who still smoke even knowing the damage they cause themselves and others around them. Talk about alcohol and it's effects on our society and the complete and utter failure to stop or even curb it's effects. The fact of the matter is that we live in a FREE society. And that means, free to be idiotic and do things that aren't good for us and I don't need anyone to tell me that it isn't good for me or to regulate me.

    January 6, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  4. Duncan

    What we REALLY need to do is stop kidding ourselves that the problem is GUN violence. We, as a nation, have a problem with violence. Giving weapons a scary name is not going to make them any more dangerous or less dangerous.

    Until we stop segmenting the violence problem into gun and non-gun violence we're still screwed.

    January 6, 2013 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  5. Enough BS

    "Thompson said all sides should be at the table"

    Looks like he has only invited proponents of one side....

    January 6, 2013 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  6. Sue

    Only in America...

    January 6, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  7. Bob

    I love how gun controllers like Thompson just casually invent terms in order to scare the public. Assault magazine? Give me a break. And Thompson's statement concerning the rifle he carried in Vietnam is a blatant lie. The United States did not issue semi-auto only rifles as the main battle rifle to troops in Vietnam. The gun Thompson used has been highly regulated for almost 80 years.

    January 6, 2013 05:24 am at 5:24 am |
  8. clarke

    There is way to much involved in this issue to control the guns, the people,,legal or illegal.. There is no way to track a person who may go into a rage.

    January 6, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  9. John_in_SD

    Yes he was the class clown that went to Baghdad in 2001 and sided with Mr. Saddam and only in California would he be reelected four times since.

    January 6, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  10. Red Dog

    So-called "military-style assault weapons" have been flying off gun store shelves since the Newtown massacre. Many gun owners see a ban on these types of weapons looming and think that if a ban happens it will not be retroactive. If this is true, there will be plenty of these guns available even after banning future purchases of them. Therefore, this type of ban will be worthless in removing these weapons from gun owners inventories. If the politicians pass laws that outlaw possession of these weapons that is retroactive they will have a huge difficulty in convincing owners to give them up. How would they enforce such a ban? House to house searches and confiscation? That is an idea that should NOT be under consideration if authorities don't want to see all hell break loose.

    January 6, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  11. jubilirao

    Constitutional provision regarding citizen's right to bear arms has been intended for self-defense in the atmosphere prevailing at the time of writing the constitution when the society was under development. The present day society requires a new direction to the advisability of limiting that choice to help in preventing avoidable situations of violence in the civil society.This requires a new law after due discussion after clarifying the true intent of the original provision in the constitution.

    January 6, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  12. Herman

    What is a assault magazine? No such thing. Rep Thompson is very ignorant on the issue of guns....yet he wants to take mine away. Fine lets have a discussion but know what you are talking about.

    January 6, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  13. Facts don't Lie

    Sadly I doubt very serious if Congress or the president is going to get anything done on this issue. As usual there is outrage when a situation like Sandy Hook happens, many thought since this time children were involved would change things, but you can tell that things have died down, the right wing gun owners and NRA that would say little or nothing at first are now coming out with the same old "don't take our guns away" crap and the folks in Congress are getting scared again as usual to have what we call "that talk". In the meantime somebody out there has an AK-47 rifle that either has a mental problem or is just plain evil planning right now the next mass shooting. And the outrage will well up..hit a peak and die out again

    January 6, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
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