A week after Democrats staged a day-long sit-in on the House floor calling for gun control, Rep. Ami Bera returned to his suburban Sacramento County district to build momentum locally.
Bera, a physician seeking his third term in Congress, held a private roundtable discussion Friday with gun-control and violence prevention advocates. The meeting was part of the national Democrats’ renewed attention on guns following the deadly attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., that killed 49 people and injured 53.
The latest call to action comes after several thwarted attempts at enacting federal legislation, most notably four years ago when a 20-year-old gunman shot and killed 20 children Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“I think a lot of us just feel this sense that this can’t be the new normal,” Bera said before his event at American River College. “To have first graders practicing drills where they are climbing into closets and hiding. There’s something wrong with that.”
The congressional intransigence on guns contrasts with actions taken at the state Capitol. Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday bolstered California’s already strong gun laws by signing a package of new bills. Separately, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is leading the campaign for a multifaceted gun-control measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Many of Bera’s colleagues have held gun-focused district events since Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia ended his unprecedented sit-in and called for a “meeting of minds” when Congress returns next week.
Lewis had wanted a vote to block suspected terrorists on the no-fly list from buying guns, a bill Bera supports. On Thursday, GOP Speaker Paul Ryan said the House plans to take up a Republican proposal to keep suspected terrorists from obtaining firearms.
Bera, who represents a toss-up district, is being challenged by Republican Scott Jones, who as Sacramento County Sheriff has been a strong defender of gun rights. Jones has courted gun owners as he campaigns, holding a fundraiser at a gun range and defending his policy on handing out permits to carry a concealed handgun.
Bera and Jones squabbled over guns since the mass shooting in Orlando. Jones has said he supports allowing officials to initiate a court hearing that could deny guns to suspected terrorists if certain conditions are met within a three-day timeline. Bera’s campaign manager criticized Jones for not going far enough.
On Friday, Bera praised Lewis’ leadership, and said the debate shouldn’t be dragged down by election-year partisanship.
“When he said, ‘enough is enough,’ and led the sit-in, that’s what drew a lot of us as members of Congress to join in,” Bera said. “This can’t be Democrats versus Republicans. It shouldn’t be a political issue. This should be ‘How do we keep our communities safe? How do we prevent the next tragedy?”