Several local congressional representatives pledged to support President Barack Obama's call Wednesday for tougher gun laws, including background checks on all gun buyers and a renewed ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The package was the culmination of an effort to confront a spate of mass shootings and gun violence, a little more than a month after the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Burbank Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, referred to a "scourge of gun violence" in a statement.
"The President articulated a reasonable set of proposals — both through executive order and congressional action — that will keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while respecting the right of law-abiding Americans to own a gun," said Schiff, a former federal prosecutor.
"I am looking forward to continuing to work with the House Gun Violence Task Force to move gun violence prevention legislation through Congress, including a bill I am introducing to ensure that victims of gun violence have the same rights to hold gun makers and gun sellers accountable for negligence, and reintroducing legislation I authored last session to crack down on straw purchasers of guns who assist others in illegally obtaining weapons without background checks."
Other Democrats signaled that they intended
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Senate and House cosponsors will introduce legislation next week prohibiting the sale, manufacture and transportation of assault weapons and ammunition feeding devices of more than 10 rounds.
Feinstein authored the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. It expired in 2004.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee where gun control legislation is likely to face tough hearings in the Republican-controlled House, predicted a bill could be on the president's desk before year's end.
"I believe there would be very vigorous debate as of now, now that the president has announced his plan, but I think it will pick up more momentum after the State of the Union," Chu said in a telephone interview.
The potential weapons ban has attracted a lot of attention, but Chu said she thinks a nationwide requirement for background checks that would forbid private party sales nationwide could be an even bigger accomplishment for gun control advocates.
"I think the key to the bill is rigorous background checks with no exceptions," said Chu, who is also on the gun task force.
One of California's newest members of Congress, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, said in a statement that while the Constitution guarantees Americans a right to gun ownership, it isn't without limits.
"I believe — and the Supreme Court has concurred — that this guarantee does not include the right to purchase military-style assault weapons or high-capacity magazines," said Lowenthal.
"Recent events in Newtown, Aurora (Colo.), and Tucson (Ariz.) demonstrate that more must be done to protect the American people from such horrific acts of violence and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass common sense changes to the way we license guns and restrict access to certain weapons that do not have legitimate sporting or self-defense uses."
South Bay Democratic Congresswoman Janice Hahn of San Pedro urged bipartisan support of what she referred to as "common sense" reforms.
Hahn, a former Los Angeles City Councilwoman, said gun violence is "all too familiar" to her communities.
"We've been to too many funerals. We've seen the endless, easy death that guns bring to our streets, our homes and our schools," said Hahn. "Congress needs to act, and I hope we move immediately on the President's proposals."
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Lakewood, commended Obama for making safe schools a priority in his plan. The president proposes money to hire 1,000 new school resources officers and school counselors.
"I have long advocated that we reduce school bullying and that we place more counselors in schools that need them," Sanchez said in prepared remarks. "I am pleased the President is making sure that both bullying prevention and hiring more school counselors are integral parts of his plan to protect our children."
The six-term congresswoman also announced that she will soon introduce legislation to provide local law enforcement agencies with resources to reduce the number of guns on the street and help with disposal of unwanted firearms.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, praised Obama for directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes of gun violence — something Congress barred in the 1990 s.
The move, Waxman said in a statement, "removed the handcuffs" that pro-gun legislators had placed on the CDC.
"This is a crucial step forward for science and children's safety," said Waxman, calling for a "full-blown assault" on gun violence.
Rep. Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Montclair, also offered her support to the White House proposals. McLeod, like Chu, is part of Thompson's task force and has said she would support an assault weapons ban.
McLeod also said she is not bothered by the president's decision to enact some parts of his plan by executive order.
"I do not believe the President is overstepping Congress. The President is using the powers he has been granted by the Constitution and is only strengthening existing programs such as the background check system. The ultimate power is in Congress and what policies will be put forth for consideration," McLeod said in an email.
Among Republicans, Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton supports the Second Amendment but also accepts background checks, according to a Royce spokeswoman.
"Ed supports the Second Amendment for law-abiding citizens. He also has supported common sense proposals to promote gun safety, including requiring instant background checks and the use of safety devices for guns," Royce communications director Audra George said in an email. "In addition, he supported a law to strengthen the instant background check system, by providing states with financial incentives to report records of mental illness (and other red-flag cases) to the FBI."
The statement from Royce's office didn't include his position on an assault weapons ban.
Although many Republicans tend to oppose gun control, Chu said there may now be enough public pressure to convince Republican lawmakers to vote with Democrats.
"I think it could be a tough fight," she said. "However, I do feel there is a lot of pressure from people around the nation who are concerned about the senseless violence."