Dems want special panel on gun violence

House Democrats on Thursday intensified their effort to check gun violence in the U.S.

{mosads}Behind California Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Mike Thompson, the Democrats introduced a resolution to form a special congressional committee tasked with studying the causes of gun violence in hopes of reining it in.

The measure arrives in the wake of a mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore., where a 26-year-old gunman killed nine people and wounded seven others at a community college before fatally shooting himself.

The tragedy, the worst mass shooting in the state’s history, prompted President Obama to vow to use his bully pulpit to pressure Congress to tighten federal gun laws — a familiar call from the president that’s long-gone unheeded on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi, Thompson and other Democratic gun reformers say the inaction is a mistake. They’re pointing to the Republican special committees investigating Benghazi and Planned Parenthood to argue that gun violence merits a similar probe.

“This House Majority has created committees to bully Planned Parenthood and harass a presidential candidate, all the while allowing mass gun violence to go unchecked and unexamined on their watch,” Thompson said in a statement. “There have been nearly 280 mass shootings since Newtown and Congress has done nothing. No votes have been cast. No bills have been debated. No proposals have even been considered. This Select Committee can change that.”

The Democrats’ resolution would create a 12-member bipartisan committee, consisting of six lawmakers from each party, charged with investigating gun violence with a particular focus on mass shootings, flaws in the background check system, penalties for straw purchases and the link between state laws and the prevalence of violence.

The measure has no chance of passing in a Congress controlled by Republicans who are near universal in their opposition to tougher gun laws. But it does highlight the stark differences between each party’s approach to gun violence amid a high-stakes election contest in which gun reform — fueled by the Oregon shooting — has become a central issue.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week launched a comprehensive reform package in which she took the aggressive step of vowing that, as president, she would sidestep Congress to expand background checks through executive action.

Senate Democrats have also joined the act, introducing their own package of gun reform bills this week that includes an extension of background checks and an expansion of prohibited buyers to include convicted stalkers.

The Democrats in both chambers acknowledge the difficulty of passing such reforms in the current political environment. Still, they insist Congress has a role to play, and are amplifying their calls for Republicans to join the debate.

“Failing to come to the table is equal to sitting by and allowing mass gun violence to become America’s new normal,” Thompson said. “Congress has a responsibility to do better than that. We need to step up, pull together and address this problem.” 

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