By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In a move laden with election-year political implications, Rep. Mike Thompson announced Tuesday that he has more than 100 co-sponsors for a bill to expand background checks on gun buyers.
“We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer when it comes to passing common-sense laws that keep guns from criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a joint statement with Rep. Pete King, R-New York.
King is one of three Republicans on a list of 110 co-sponsors of the bill that is identical to the background checks measure defeated in the Senate two weeks ago.
If all 201 House Democrats backed the bill, it would still need 17 Republican votes for approval. But its failure could pay dividends for the Democrats in 2014.
The Thompson-King bill would require background checks for all firearms sales, including transactions at gun shows, over the Internet and by newspaper ads.
Huffman, who entered Congress in January representing the North Coast, rejected the ideas that the measure is dead in the Senate and stands little chance in a Republican-controlled House.
The 54 “yes” votes in the Senate, which fell short of the required 60 votes, is “a pretty good place to build on,” Huffman said.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said he intends to keep working on the bill, but his Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, expressed no such interest.
Huffman pointed to polls that show “overwhelming support” for expanded background checks as reasons to press for a House vote on what he called “a narrow and sensible reform.”
If the vote falls short, Huffman said it would be campaign fodder in the 2014 midterm elections.
“We need to get people on the record and hold them accountable if they won’t take this common-sense step,” he said.
A Fox News Poll conducted after the Senate’s April 17 vote found 82 percent of voters favored expanding gun buyer background checks and 61 percent would be “less likely” to support a candidate who voted against them.
Given the Republican majority in the House, Thompson’s bill is unlikely to move out of committee, even though it is the “least controversial” gun control measure, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
But there’s a “bigger game going on here” with the primary elections about one year away, McCuan said.
President Barack Obama wants to become the first chief executive to secure full control of both the House and Senate in a midterm election, McCuan said. “It would make him a giant in American politics,” he said.
The president’s party typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections, especially during its second term in the White House.
Democrats aren’t likely to make the economy, Syria or Obamacare a 2014 campaign topic, but gun control could work as a “wedge issue,” especially with suburban women voters, an important demographic, McCuan said.
Thompson’s continued efforts, as chairman of the Democrats’ Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, can “help keep the issue front and center,” McCuan said.