House Democrats name vice chairs of gun-violence task force

House Democrats have named the leaders of a new panel designed to fight gun violence.

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The task force, formed in the wake of last month's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., will be led by lawmakers as diverse as Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), an ardent supporter of gun control; John Dingell (Mich.), a long-time ally of the National Rifle Association; and Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who was injured in the Tucson shooting that almost killed former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), appointed chairman of the panel last month by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the group's task will be two-fold: "To reduce and prevent gun violence while also protecting the rights of law-abiding individuals without a history of dangerous mental illness to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes."

The other vice chairs are Democratic Reps. Bill Enyart (Ill.), a military veteran; Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), who represents Newtown; Chaka Fattah (Penn.), an advocate of gun-buyback programs; Grace Napolitano (Calif.), a mental-healthcare advocate; Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), who represents the town of Aurora, where a gunman shot 70 people at a movie theater last summer; David Price (N.C.), senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee; Bobby Scott (Va.), senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime; Jackie Speier (Calif.), who was shot during a 1978 trip to investigate the notorious Jonestown cult in South America; and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), the chairman of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus, a pro-hunting group.

The panel says it will meet with gun-violence experts this month and recommend prevention strategies in February.

The issue of gun violence has generated numerous headlines in recent weeks following the massacre in Newtown, where a lone gunman stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School and fatally shot 26 people – including 20 first-graders – before turning the gun on himself.

The shooter, a 20-year-old who reportedly had a history of mental illness, had also shot and killed his mother before going to the school, bringing the death toll to 28.

President Obama has also formed a gun violence task force in the aftermath of the massacre. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time supporter of tougher gun laws, the White House panel is expected to release its recommendations this month.

Meanwhile, at least 10 gun-related bills have already been introduced in the two days the House has been in session in the 113th Congress. Two of those are Republicans bills to ease Second Amendment restrictions, though most are Democratic proposals that would put new limitations on guns or firearm accessories.

The gun reformers have a tough road ahead. The National Rifle Association has already come out defiantly against any new law that makes it more difficult to buy or own guns. And Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have indicated they agree.

"We’re going to take a look at what happened there [in Newtown] and what can be done to help avoid it in the future," Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees gun laws, told Roll Call last month. "But gun control is not going to be something that I would support."