In the contentious debates on gun policy that are likely to remain at the forefront of national politics in the coming months, Colorado is an important player given its history of tragic mass shootings. And on one national task force dedicated to reducing gun violence, U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter, who has represented both Aurora and the area around Columbine High School, will be a vice chair, he announced today.
This news further cements that Colorado's elected officials are likely to be influential in the anticipated gun control fights.
Perlmutter, a Democrat, was one of the first local politicians to make headlines around gun policy in the immediate aftermath of the July 20 Aurora theater shooting that left twelve dead and dozens more injured.
He said then that the time has come to reinstate the assault weapons ban -- a move which he is expected to follow through on this month.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Diana DeGette, a Democrat who represents Denver, has already introduced a bill to ban high-capacity assault magazines, which she tried, unsuccessfully, to get to a vote last month in the final days of the 112th Congress.
Today, Perlmutter was appointed as one of twelve vice chairs to serve on the so-called House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which will hold a number of meetings and hearings over the next month before releasing a "comprehensive set of policy proposals" in early February. President Obama, in his boldest move yet on gun control, has also convened a task force to be headed by Vice President Joe Biden.
Perlmutter is the only vice chair from Colorado on the task force.
"It's a big responsibility," says Leslie Oliver, spokeswoman and policy director for Perlmutter. "And it is an indication that this is a serious issue that's a priority for the country right now. And Ed is ready, willing and able to step up and be a part of the conversation...trying to advance crime control and gun safety measures in an appropriate and responsible way."
While Perlmutter had initially intended to introduce the assault weapons ban on day one of the new Congress, Oliver says that they were now waiting to introduce it simultaneously with the Senate -- a move that will happen some time in January, she says.
Continue for more on the task force and the full list of appointed vice chairs.
In regards to the task force, Oliver says, "He's got very personal experience, unfortunately, with some of these issues and has taken a leadership role on these issues in the past."
He represented Aurora during the movie theater shooting and when he was a state senator, he represented the area surrounding Columbine High School.
Oliver touts his ability to work across the aisle as a strong asset for this kind of task force. "Ed is somebody who's proven that he can work in a bipartisan way with all members of the house in trying to be a responsible representative for our state."
She adds, "We can move on this in a very responsible way that doesn't infringe upon people's constitutional rights."
She says it is likely that on the task force, Perlmutter will be discussing potential restrictions on magazines and assault weapons, stronger mental health components related to gun safety, better regulations of online sales of ammunition and more.
Ultimately, this is about doing everything possible to prevent such a horrible tragedy like the horrific elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last month.
"We don't want to keep seeing this happen," she says.
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Here's the full list of vice chairs announced in a news release today:
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO) -- Congressman Ed Perlmutter represents the 7th Congressional District of Colorado encompassing the northern and western suburbs of the Denver metro region. Residents of the 7th CD are diverse, moderate and middle of the road with their personal values, economics, and education. Perlmutter represented the City of Aurora, CO during the tragic movie theater shootings in July 2012. He also represented the area surrounding Columbine High School when he was serving in the Colorado State Senate. Perlmutter has extensive experience in Colorado working to create mandatory criminal background checks for all gun purchases, and during his time in the state Senate, he sponsored many crime control and victims' assistance measures.
Rep. Ron Barber (AZ) - Congressman Barber had a 30-year career with the Division of Developmental Disabilities in the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Under his direction, the division improved services for families, while running one of the five most cost-efficient, high-quality programs in the country. After his retirement, Barber became district director for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He was standing next to her on Jan. 8, 2011 when a gunman opened fire at a Congress on Your Corner event. Barber was shot twice and critically wounded. When Congresswoman Giffords stepped down to focus on her recovery, Barber ran for the seat, winning the right to succeed her in office.
Rep. John D. Dingell (MI) - Congressman John D. Dingell is the Dean of the House of Representatives and a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A lifelong outdoorsman and conservationist, Congressman Dingell is an avid hunter and sportsman and member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. Congressman Dingell is also one of the primary authors of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.
Rep. Bill Enyart (IL) -- Bill Enyart is the retired Major General of the Illinois National Guard and served in the military for 35 years. He is a proud gun owner, enjoys hunting, and is a conservationist.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT) - Elizabeth Esty represents Newtown, Ct in Congress. In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, she has met with first responders, mental health professionals, educators, community leaders, and local elected officials in Newtown. She approaches the need for sensible gun policies as a community leader, attorney, and mother who has served as a room parent for a first-grade classroom. As a member of the Connecticut State House of Representatives, Esty advocated for commonsense legislation to reduce gun violence and keep families safe.
Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA) - Ranking Member on House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies. Fattah, a major supporter of the ATF, is deeply involved in issues dealing with firearms, public safety and law enforcement. In Philadelphia, he created the successful gun buyback "Groceries for Guns" program that has removed thousands of dangerous, unwanted firearms from streets and homes of Philadelphians in exchange for grocery coupons.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY) - Congresswoman McCarthy, a lifelong nurse, strode into a life of activism to reduce gun violence after her husband was murdered and son critically wounded in the 1993 mass shooting on the Long Island Railroad in New York. Her activism led her to Washington first to lobby members of Congress as an advocate for victims, and then as a member herself after running against her own congressman who voted against the assault weapons ban. Today she is the House sponsor of bills to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, close the gunshow loophole, strengthen our national background check database, and ban the anonymous bulk online sale of ammunition. Later this month she will also introduce a new assault weapons ban with Congressman Ed Perlmutter and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (CA) - Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus. In 2001, she secured funding to provide on-site mental health services for schools within her District, which has now expanded to 15 area schools. Napolitano introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act, authorizing funding to implement on-site mental health services for schools on a national level and each year has introduced legislation recognizing May as National Mental Health Awareness Month. In 2010, Napolitano created the Mental Health Task Force, which includes notable figures such as: Los Angeles Laker, Metta World Peace; World Championship Boxer, Mia St. John, and Dancing with the Stars celebrity, Mark Ballas to help raise awareness about mental health, rid stigma, and encourage others to seek help. Additionally, Napolitano established the 38th Congressional District Mental Health Consortium, a group of local mental health professionals in her District to help advise on mental health related issues and policy.
Rep. David Price (NC) - Congressman David Price of North Carolina is the Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, where he has worked to improve public safety and ensure first responders have access to the tools they need to protect our communities. As a member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, he has long supported robust funding for mental health services and was an early advocate for the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity Act, which became law in the 110th Congress. Rep. Price has also supported efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and limit the sale of military-style weapons.
Rep. Bobby Scott (VA) - Congressman Bobby Scott serves as the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. He is a known leader of legislative efforts to reduce crime and prevent youth violence by advocating for comprehensive, evidence-based solutions. Towards this goal, he has introduced the Youth PROMISE Act. Following the Columbine tragedy, he co-led a bi-partisan effort to develop juvenile crime prevention and accountability legislation that resulted in the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Program (JABG) legislation which was cosponsored by every member of the Crime Subcommittee on both sides of the aisle and passed into law in 2002. He has also co-led bipartisan legislative efforts to add fines and suspensions to the tools available to the ATF to enable the agency to more effectively enforce gun sale and transfer regulations and to close the gun show loophole.
Rep. Jackie Speier (CA) - Congresswoman Speier was Legislative Counsel to Congressman Leo Ryan in 1978 when she accompanied him to investigate the People's Temple cult in Jonestown, Guyana. Congressman Ryan was assassinated, and Speier was shot five times at close range. She still carries two of the bullets in her body. Since that time, she has been a consistent advocate of gun control, and carried assault weapons ban legislation in California twenty years ago. She supports the 2nd Amendment, but believes we cannot simply blame this crisis on violent video games or mental illness. The proliferation of military style assault weapons and assault magazines are part of the problem, and should be banned. In addition, she believes it is essential that loopholes in the background check process be closed.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (MS) - An avid hunter, Congressman Bennie Thompson has been selected to chair the bipartisan Congressional Sportsman's Caucus during the 113th Congress. Congressman Thompson has served as the lead Democrat on the House Committee on Homeland Security since 2007. Prior to his election to Congress, Congressman Thompson served as alderman and mayor of Bolton, Mississippi and as a supervisor in Hinds, County Mississippi.
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