Bay Area Reps: With Democrats in Control of House, It’s Time for a Gun Control Bill

Friends hug outside Los Robles Medical Center in Thousands Oaks, paying tribute to Ventura Country Sheriff's Sgt Ron Helus, killed in the shooting at the Borderline Bar, on Nov. 08, 2018. (APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images)

Bay Area House Democrats promised Thursday to aggressively push for new gun control laws in the wake of Wednesday night's mass shooting that left 13 people, including the shooter, dead at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks.

"I'm horrified by it," said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Helena), the chairman of a gun violence task force set up after the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

At least one of Thompson's constituents was killed in the shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill.

Alaina Housley, who graduated from Vintage High School in Napa this year and was a freshman at Pepperdine University, was among the dead, according to the Napa Valley Unified School District. Pepperdine University also confirmed her death in a tweet.

"It makes it just that much worse," said Thompson, whose district also includes the Yountville veterans home, where a gunman killed three people last March.

In the past, with Republicans in charge of the House, legislation on gun control would not make it to committee hearings or floor votes, Thompson said. That's despite a series of high-profile shooting incidents that have left scores of people dead in recent years.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the shooting in Thousand Oaks marks the 307th mass shooting of 2018.

"They just continued to sweep this under the carpet," Thompson said.

"I can guarantee you this will not be the case under Nancy Pelosi's leadership," he said. "We will take up these issues. We will have hearings. We will pass legislation out of the House in an effort to prevent gun violence."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), who last year re-introduced the assault weapons ban, said the common attribute to the plague of mass shootings was easy access to guns.

"Some will say California's strong gun laws didn't prevent this shooting, but without stronger federal gun regulations, there's little California can do to keep guns coming in from other states," Feinstein said in a statement.

Feinstein's predictions were true. The Firearms Policy Coalition, a gun rights advocacy organization based in Sacramento, argued just that.

"The State of California has some of the harshest gun control laws in the United States," the coalition said in a statement. "But, as history teaches, violence does not respect government authority," the group said.

"The government has no duty to protect you, and you are your own first responder," said the coalition.

Rep. Mike Thompson and Nancy Pelosi, pictured in Dec., 2017.
Rep. Mike Thompson and Nancy Pelosi, pictured in Dec., 2017. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Ventura County authorities have said the gunman used a Glock 21, a .45-caliber handgun designed to hold 10 rounds plus one in the chamber. The gun used in Wednesday's Thousand Oaks mass shooting had an extended magazine that is illegal in California, according to Sheriff Geoff Dean.

Feinstein said the nation needs to close gaping holes in its background check system, something Thompson says he'll push for.

"I will introduce legislation immediately upon the adjournment of the next Congress that will expand background checks to require folks go through a background check before they take possession of a firearm," Thompson said.


Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) expressed sorrow about the shooting, anger about the lack of movement on the issue of gun violence in Congress, but new hope based on this week's election.

"There's been a complete unwillingness from Washington's leaders to do anything about it," Swalwell said in an interview.

"The American people in the last couple of days have spoken. They've elected a majority of Democrats in the Congress. Many of them ran on passing sensible gun legislation," Swalwell said.

"Now we have an opportunity, at least in the House of Representatives, to do more than nothing" he said.

People watch the procession carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night.
People watch the procession carrying the body of Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night. (David McNew/Getty Images)

But the House may be the last place it lands, because Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump have not expressed interested in passing gun control legislation.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not respond to a request for comment.

President Trump ordered flags at all public buildings and grounds and military posts be flown at half-staff in honor of the shooting victims, but the White House made no mention of any policy initiative based on gun control.

Thompson called on Trump and the GOP to stop refusing to take up gun control legislation.

"Anyone in the Senate who refuses to participate in making the situation better needs to understand that it is the will of the people that we do this," he said.

"We have gone beyond the proverbial tipping point. This is an epidemic. It is a crisis. We need to take action."