House Dems ask members to invite gun violence victims to State of the Union

Five Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday called on their colleagues in the House to keep up pressure for new gun restrictions by inviting people affected by gun violence to President Obama's State of the Union address, on Feb. 12.

"It is vital that we include the American public and give a voice to our constituents as we search for comprehensive solutions to this problem," the group wrote to House colleagues.

"In December, President Obama declared that addressing gun-related violence would be a 'central issue' as he opens his second term. ... It is our hope that their presence in the House Gallery will send a strong message that it is long past time to act."

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Each member can bring one guest to the State of the Union, which is occurring in February this year because of the second inauguration of the president taking place next week.

Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who penned the letter, are all members of the Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

The plan to bring victims of gun violence to Washington is the latest reaction to last month's mass shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Conn.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposals to stem gun violence later this week. The measures, likely a mix of both legislative solutions and executive actions, will incorporate the recommendations from Vice President Biden's gun violence task force, which has been examining the issue this month.

But Democratic lawmakers have moved ahead of the administration, offering several new proposals to restrict guns.

Democrats introduced three new gun bills on Monday.

One of these is from Langevin, the Crackdown on Deadbeat Gun Dealers Act. His bill, H.R. 236, would call for increased inspection of firearms dealers by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and would also increase the penalties for "knowingly misrepresenting any facts about a firearms sale."

It would also let the government suspend a firearms dealer's license when needed.

"I applaud President Obama for recommending an all-encompassing approach to this challenging issue," Langevin said. "Getting rid of these deadbeat gun dealers is an important complement to an effort that I hope will also include universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and improving mental health services."

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) proposed another bill, H.R. 227, that would create a federal grant to help fund nationwide gun-buyback initiatives.

The Buyback our Safety Act would authorize the use of $15 million over the next five years for this purpose. It would create a matching grant that local law enforcement agencies could use to boost gun-buyback programs.

"The Buyback our Safety Act is a modestly-funded but commonsense proposal that builds on the successes of gun buyback programs underway from coast to coast," Deutch said. "It will help local governments that may have been daunted by the cost of financing buyback programs move forward, and by requiring the Justice Department to report on the success of the grant to Congress, it will give us a better understanding of these buyback programs' impact on gun violence in our communities."

Freshman Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) also proposed a bill, H.R. 238, that is aimed at preventing people with a license to import, produce or sell firearms to transfer firearms to another business.

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