Gun Regulations Must Be Focused to Pass, Thompson Says

Legislation to require background checks for gun purchases and to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines have the best chance of gaining bipartisan support to pass the U.S. House and Senate, said California Representative Mike Thompson.

Thompson, a Democrat and gun owner who is leading a House panel on gun violence prevention, returned to Washington today to meet with Vice President Joe Biden as the White House prepares to release its recommendations by tomorrow for legislative and executive actions to curb gun violence.

“Some form of that are all things middle-ground folks will agree with,” said Thompson, who spoke at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress in Washington. “It’s got to be very focused.”

Thompson said enhanced prosecution of existing gun laws and improvements in school safety would be critical. He didn’t mention renewing the 1994 assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004 on his list of items with bipartisan support.

Thompson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was an adviser to former President Bill Clinton when the assault weapons ban and a 1993 crime bill were passed, stressed the importance of focusing on gun access by criminals rather than overall gun control.

Once Biden unveils his recommendations, the focus will shift to Congress, where Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House.

Assault Weapons Ban

Congress hasn’t passed major gun-related legislation since the assault weapons ban. It didn’t enact new legislation after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that was the first in a series of killings at schools and universities in the past decade.

The Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 20 children and six adults, created an opening to pass new laws, Emanuel said.

“It’s been a tipping point for galvanization in action,” he said. “But you’ve got to be very smart about this effort, about how you’re going to go forward, because it’s not a guarantee that just because Newtown happened we’re in a different game and therefore we’re going to win.”

“We can’t lose this moment of galvanization,” Emanuel said.

In addition to the Biden recommendations, a number of Democrats in Congress plan to introduce legislation intended to curb gun violence. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said she will introduce a bill expanding the classification of assault weapons and prohibiting their sale and importation.

National Rifle Association President David Keene said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that a White House push for an assault weapons ban won’t succeed.

Among other members planning legislation is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who is offering a bill to toughen rules on buying ammunition that would require retailers to use an FBI database for background checks on anyone buying bullets.

-- Editors: Jodi Schneider, Laurie Asseo

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.