Rep. DeSaulnier to Introduce Bill to Fund Gun Violence Research
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier at a gun violence town hall in Lafayette on Feb. 24, 2018. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)
Fearing impending gridlock on gun control policy in Congress, even in the wake of this month's school shooting in Florida, congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) wants to create an independent board to research solutions to gun violence.
DeSaulnier is drafting legislation that would create a five-member board, whose research would be funded by a $5 surcharge on all gun purchases. The board would research gun violence and perhaps institute policies on its own.
"Get the politics out of it and look at research," said DeSaulnier. "There’s plenty of research now around the world that shows that there are good effective legislative policies that can actually statistically drop these kinds of things from happening."
For decades, Congress has limited the federal government's ability to research gun violence.
"At the research center, our goal is not to do research that supports gun control," said fellow Rose Kagawa. "Our goal is to do research that identifies ways of reducing risk, injury and death."
After 17 people were killed on Valentine's Day at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, members of both parties have renewed calls for the federal government to research solutions to gun violence.
Last week, a group of congressional Democrats wrote House Speaker Paul Ryan to ask that he lift the amendment currently blocking federal research.
At a Saturday town hall in Lafayette focused on gun violence, DeSaulnier even floated the idea of giving a research board "the authority to implement evidence-based research without Congress."
It's unclear if any support exists for the idea of handing over gun policy decisions to an unelected board.
DeSaulnier compared the idea to California's regional air quality management districts, which have latitude to enact policies without a vote from the Legislature.
At the town hall, many constituents demanded action on proposals that would block some individuals from obtaining guns.
"What is your office doing to propose and/or support laws that will ensure that government officials take seriously credible complaints from citizens who report gun ownership by violent individuals already with criminal records?" asked Johanna Welty.
DeSaulnier said he supports efforts to expand federal background check law, and he added that communities around the country could learn from the risk assessment practices done by Contra Costa County health officials.
"Maybe we could do something around this to incentivize the good practices we do here in Contra Costa," DeSaulnier offered.
The school shooter in Florida displayed behavioral problems for years that were not acted on by federal and local authorities.
"I would argue that the mistakes that happened with the FBI and the local police department would not have happened here because of the collaboration for years between the county mental health department and the sheriff's department and police departments and school districts," DeSaulnier said.