Congressman Scott Peters

Representing the 52nd District of California

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Gun violence: We asked San Diego County's congressional members their positions

Feb 21, 2018
In The News

Three of the 10 worst mass shootings in modern American history have happened in the past three months with the shots of the most recent — a shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 adults and children dead on Wednesday — still ringing in our ears as the debate over guns and gun legislation intensifies.

Amid growing student activism and signals of support by President Donald Trump for banning bump stocks and toughening federal background checks for gun purchases, a nation has turned its attention to Congress. Why? It’s congressional action — or inaction — that always draws American attention after these shootings.

To get a better sense of where our congressional representatives stand on issues related to gun violence, we sent the five members of San Diego County’s congressional delegation and California’s two senators the same set of questions on Tuesday morning.

  • What should your constituents know about your views on the Second Amendment?
  • Have you sponsored any legislation in response to mass shootings?
  • Do you want to highlight any relevant votes or legislative action you’ve taken?
  • Have you taken any positions that your constituents should know about?
  • What needs to change going forward? What are your priorities on this issue?
  • Any other thoughts to share on the subject?

Here are the replies we’ve received so far. We’ll update this page with more answers as we get them.

Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego

What should your constituents know about your views on the Second Amendment?

“This is not about Second Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has indicated that there are limitations to the types of weapons people can possess and own.”

Have you sponsored any legislation in response to mass shootings?

“I have cosponsored legislation to create universal background checks and close the loopholes in the national background check system. I am supporting bills to reinstate the assault weapons ban, as well as ban bump stocks.”

Do you want to highlight any relevant votes or legislative action you’ve taken?

“In 2017, I voted against the bill that ended the Obama policy that made it harder for those suffering from mental illness to get their hands on a gun. Also in 2017, I voted against legislation that would weaken the ability of any state, such as California, to have strong conceal carry laws. I am a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in the House of Representatives.”

Have you taken any positions that your constituents should know about?

“I recently joined my Democratic colleagues on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in calling for a hearing in committee on school safety. We need to hear from experts, educators, parents and students on this issue. Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary five years ago, there have been 430 people killed in 230 school shootings. The last time the committee held a hearing on this issue was in 2013. In 2016, I joined my colleague, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, in staging a sit in on the House floor demanding a vote on preventing gun violence.”

What needs to change going forward? What are your priorities on this issue?

“Good sense needs to trump extremist views on the issue of preventing gun violence. My priority is and always has been saving lives.”

Any other thoughts to share on the subject?

“I have been so inspired by the recent actions and articulate voices of our young people in response to the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are showing the leadership that is lacking among Republican leaders in Congress. We need to listen to them and the majority of Americans who want Congress to do its job and work together to prevent gun violence and more needless deaths.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine

Hunter has not yet responded.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista

  Issa has not yet responded.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego

What should your constituents know about your views on the Second Amendment?

“I support the Second Amendment and the rights of responsible gun owners to own guns for sporting, collection, or self-protection. There is, however, no reason for civilians to possess the weapons of war that have been used to slaughter concertgoers, moviegoers and children at their schools; law enforcement organizations, such as the International Association of Police Chiefs, agree that assault weapons should be banned.”

Have you sponsored any legislation in response to mass shootings?

“Since first coming to Congress in 2013, just weeks after the horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, I have cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in our communities. These bills include critical reforms to our background check processes, bans on the sale of high capacity magazines, and bans on the sale of assault-style weapons. Bills to protect Americans from gun violence that I have supported are here:”

Do you want to highlight any relevant votes or legislative action you’ve taken?

“This session, Congress has taken two gun-related votes: one that repealed a rule instituted by the Obama Administration that required the Social Security Administration to share with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System when individuals have been determined to lack the mental capacity to manage their own finances, and another that would require states to honor another state’s concealed carry permit. I strongly opposed both those because they move us in precisely the wrong direction.”

Have you taken any positions that your constituents should know about?

“As a member of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I have been a consistent, vocal advocate for Congressional action to address gun violence. In the wake of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas and now Parkland, Congressional action is long, long overdue. I have focused on pushing legislation to establish universal background checks because it has broad bipartisan support and, thus, the best chance of passage in the House. I played a key role in the Democratic anti-gun violence sit-in in 2016, by broadcasting this protest of Republican opposition to gun safety laws on the House floor through Periscope. When Republican leaders still refused to act, I began reading the names of the victims of gun violence on the House floor, to highlight the human cost of their persistent inaction.”

What needs to change going forward? What are your priorities on this issue?

“After each of these tragedies, Congressional Republicans hold a moment of silence in honor of those whose lives were senselessly cut short, and then send “thoughts and prayers,” and then do nothing to make it better. That needs to change. I am ready to make our background check system work better, and I’m ready to ban bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and weapons of war that have no place in our schools or in our communities. My priority now is to raise the volume on this issue — to make it so that Congressional Republicans can’t just move on — and to help all of those who have been calling for action from Congress to have their voices heard.”

Any other thoughts to share on the subject?

“The only way for Congress to act is for the Republican Speaker of the House to allow us to vote on any number of the bipartisan bills that are out there. Everyone who cares about protecting our children from future senseless tragedies should raise their voices and demand that the Republicans let Congress do its job and protect the people they were elected to serve.”

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego

"Congress has the power and the moral responsibility to pass common-sense gun safety legislation. I support the U.S. Constitution and believe that Congress must act to address the gun violence epidemic in our country. I am ready to work with my colleagues to find comprehensive legislative solutions to this dire problem and I plead with my Republican colleagues to listen to the children and the families who have had their lives upended by senseless gun violence."

So far this Congress, Rep. Vargas has cosponsored several pieces of legislation to address and prevent gun violence in our country, some of the bills are below:

During the 115th Congress, Vargas has voted against legislation that would loosen gun regulations, such as:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-San Francisco

What should your constituents know about your views on the Second Amendment?

“While I respect the Second Amendment, it is not unlimited. Common sense restrictions to prevent gun violence are constitutional and necessary. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld reasonable limits on gun ownership.”

Have you sponsored any legislation in response to mass shootings? Do you want to highlight any relevant votes or legislative action you’ve taken? Have you taken any positions that your constituents should know about?

“Reducing gun violence has been one of my top legislative priorities since being elected to the Senate. We’ve seen countless families and communities broken by gun violence. I’ve met with many victims and their pain never leaves me. Gun violence is a public health crisis in this country and we need a comprehensive response.

In response to the 1993 mass shooting at 101 California Street in San Francisco, I led our successful effort to ban military-style assault weapons. When the assault weapons ban was in place, the number of gun massacres fell by 37 percent and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. While the ban was effective, Republicans blocked its extension in 2004 and we’ve been fighting to reinstate it ever since.

Assault weapons like the AR-15 are the weapon of choice in mass shootings. They allow shooters to kill large numbers of people in a matter of minutes. Assault weapons were used in the mass shootings in Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and Parkland. I reintroduced legislation to ban assault weapons in 2013 after the Sandy Hook massacre and again after the Sutherland Springs shooting in November 2017. Our current bill applies lessons learned from our 1994 law by banning weapons that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one other military characteristic like a pistol grip, making it far more difficult for gun manufacturers to skirt the law.

I’ve also introduced legislation to ban bump stocks, devices used in the Las Vegas shooting that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns. Machine guns have been banned for decades so there’s no reason to allow devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to function like machine guns.

In mass shooting after mass shooting, friends and family members have seen warning signs that the shooter may commit an act of violence. But in most states, there’s no legal avenue for families who have concerns about their children accessing guns and carrying out attacks to intervene before the gun violence occurs.

After the tragic shooting in Isla Vista, California changed its laws to establish a process for family members to go to court and obtain gun violence restraining orders.

I’ve introduced legislation that would provide federal support to states that want to pursue similar legislation.

I am also one of the lead sponsors of legislation to strengthen and expand background checks. The bills I support would ensure states and federal agencies provide required information to the background check system; expand background checks to all sales, not just those of gun dealers; and close the loophole that allows sales to proceed if background checks are not completed in 72 hours.

After the Pulse Night Club shooting, where 49 people were killed, we pushed for a vote on my bill to ensure individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list who pose a danger are blocked from buying weapons. Currently, known or suspected terrorists are not barred from legally purchasing weapons.

Between February 2004 and December 2015, known or suspected terrorists initiated a background check to purchase a weapon 2,477 times — they successfully passed that check 2,265 times, or 91 percent. Republicans also blocked this bill.”

What needs to change going forward? What are your priorities on this issue?

“Going forward, the public needs to continue to speak out and hold elected officials accountable. The American people overwhelmingly support commonsense gun reform, but the gun lobby and its stranglehold on public officials has blocked change. I’m confident that if we all speak up and keep up the pressure, we will succeed in improving our laws.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-San Francisco

What should your constituents know about your views on the Second Amendment?

“It is a false choice to suggest that you are either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away. I support the Second Amendment, but believe we have to have smart, sensible gun safety laws and that weapons of war whose primary purpose is to kill the largest number of human beings in shortest period of time should not be on the streets of America.”

Have you sponsored any legislation in response to mass shootings?

Do you want to highlight any relevant votes or legislative action you’ve taken?

On Oct. 11, 2017, Harris signed a letter to Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins requesting the renewal of a funding opportunity for firearm violence research.

On Feb. 1, 2018, Harris signed a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray in concern for reports that DOJ Court Martial Indictments and Convictions have not been included in background check databases.

As attorney general, I seized hundreds of firearms that were used in illegal trafficking schemes, implemented the automated firearms system and advocated for commonsense firearm legislation.

Have you taken any positions that your constituents should know about?

“I stand with Californians who support universal background checks that prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands, who want assault weapons that can kill a lot of people in a short period of time off our streets, and other measures that will ensure that people can go to school and to movies or to a concert without fearing they could be killed.”

What needs to change going forward? What are your priorities on this issue?

“Leaders in Washington, D.C. and in capitals in states across our country need to have courage to stand up and do the right thing. As a prosecutor, for years, in appreciating homicide and being able to talk with the judge about it and a jury about it, I had to look at autopsy photographs. When you see the effect of this extreme violence on a human body, especially the body of a child, maybe it will shock some people into understanding this cannot be a political issue. We cannot tolerate a society and live in a country with pride when our children are being slaughtered.”

Any other thoughts to share on the subject?

“Nowhere else does this type of tragedy continue to happen, only in America and it has become too routine. Ninety Americans are killed, on average, every day by guns. We must honestly acknowledge the epidemic of gun violence and work together to curb it.”

Check back for more responses, or if you have a follow up question you’d like to have answered, email the address below or tweet it to @sdutIdeas.