WASHINGTON -- A group of Democratic lawmakers is seeking to revive stalled gun control efforts on Capitol Hill, after President Barack Obama pledged in his State of the Union address Tuesday to take action "with or without Congress."
Reps. Alan Lowenthal (Calif.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), and Elizabeth Esty (Conn.) introduced a House resolution Wednesday calling for renewed congressional action to reduce gun violence in the United States. The legislation is backed by the Newtown Action Alliance, one of the anti-gun violence groups formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.
The resolution states:
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that gun violence is a public health issue and Congress should enact by the end of the 113th Congress comprehensive Federal legislation that protects the Second Amendment and keeps communities safe and healthy, including expanding enforceable background checks for all commercial gun sales, improving the mental health system in the United States, and making gun trafficking and straw purchasing a Federal crime.
"There is no need to lay out another statistic about the prevalence of gun violence," Lowenthal said in a statement. "It is, as we are seeing on the news on almost a weekly basis, a public health epidemic."
More than 30 people a day die from gun violence in America, Thompson said, calling for comprehensive and enforceable background checks for all firearm sales.
Esty, whose district includes Newtown, said "the price of political inaction [one year after the shooting] is unacceptable and inexcusable." The freshman lawmaker also told The Huffington Post in December that she promised her constituents she would continue to fight for a vote on measures to reduce gun violence.
All three lawmakers sit on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which was established by the White House after the Sandy Hook massacre. A House GOP leadership aide did not respond to a request for comment on the resolution, but the official position of Republicans in the lower chamber has been that existing gun laws are not being adequately enforced.
Obama concluded his speech last year by addressing the Sandy Hook tragedy, which had occurred just two months before. He made an emotional plea on behalf of gun violence victims, several of whom were present. "Gabby Giffords deserves a vote, the families of Newtown deserve a vote," Obama declared to a standing ovation.
But the Senate failed to expand background checks last April and Congress has yet to revisit the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially said he would try to bring the background checks bill back up for a vote by the end of 2014, but has since acknowledged that the support simply isn't there. Four Senate Democrats are up for reelection in conservative states this November, making it less likely that leadership would be able to force a controversial vote.
Outside groups devoted to tackling gun violence have nonetheless planned to take on the National Rifle Association and lawmakers refusing to change course in 2014. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group launched by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), ran a television ad on CNN and MSNBC before and after Tuesday's State of the Union stating that Congress is afraid of the gun lobby.
Read the full resolution here.