Huffman after Vegas shooting: Americans need to demand gun control

Police officers stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday. At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 injured in the shooting Sunday night, spurring a renewed debate about gun control legislation both at a state and national level.
Police officers stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday. At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 injured in the shooting Sunday night, spurring a renewed debate about gun control legislation both at a state and national level. John Locher — The Associated Press

After a gunman killed at least 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival on Sunday night, elected officials in California called for stricter gun control measures.

Several state leaders urged quick action in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, called for a House vote on gun purchasing background check legislation, as well as the creation of a new House committee to make recommendations on addressing gun violence.

“Our words of comfort to the families of the victims of the Las Vegas massacre will ring hollow unless we take long overdue action to ensure that no other family is forced to endure such an unimaginable tragedy,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

The legislation Pelosi called for a vote on, sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Santa Rosa, would expand the national background check system to require checks on everyone who buys a firearm, including purchasers at gun shows and over the internet.

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman told the Times-Standard on Monday there was a chance for the background check legislation to receive bipartisan support. But he sees Congress moving in the “wrong direction.”

“Unfortunately, even as these tragedies continue to happen with more severity, this congress has been heading in the wrong direction on gun violence,” he said. “They wont allow hearings or votes on anything to keep people safer. They are moving a bill through the House to make it easier to sell silencers, buy ‘cop-killer bullets’ [that can pierce police armor] and traffic in illegal weapons.”

Huffman said NRA-inspired slogans such as the “only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun” are frequently heard around the Capitol.

“It’s hard to imagine how any good guys with guns could have stopped the guy in Las Vegas [Sunday] night, but they’ll keep saying it anyway,” he said.

Huffman added that it’s up to Americans to urge their legislators to vote for “common sense gun safety legislation.”

“The reality is it’s going to take Americans getting outraged and holding politicians accountable to finally change this thing,” he said. “I hope this tragedy will lead to a little more awareness and a little more accountability for a Congress that is complicit in our gun violence crisis.”

It’s unclear how the Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, got his weapons. Police said he was found dead with at least 10 guns in a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Casino, where he opened fire on concertgoers across the street.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who authored an assault weapons ban passed by Congress after a 1993 mass shooting in San Francisco, urged Congress to work to prevent more deadly shootings.

“We must not allow ourselves to become numb to these massacres that can snuff out so many lives in such a short time,” Feinstein said in a statement. “It should shock every American that one individual, with easy access to weapons and ammunition, can inflict such devastation.”

Her California colleague in the Senate, Sen. Kamala Harris, released a similar call to action in a Facebook post.

“This kind of tragedy has become too routine in America,” Harris wrote. “We’ve lost far too many of our classmates, friends, family members, and children to gun violence. That’s why as we pray for those recovering, we also must commit ourselves to action. Another moment of silence won’t suffice.”

Meanwhile, the White House brushed aside calls for quick moves on gun control. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday “that’s something we can talk about in the coming days,” arguing that stricter gun laws don’t necessarily avert violence.

In Sacramento, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon had one of the most barbed responses to the violence.

“The police say the shooter appeared to have acted alone,” he said in a statement. “That’s not true. Every gun lobbyist and the politicians who do their bidding were all in that room with him. We have to make this stop, and we can with courage and political will.”

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire noted that California has the “toughest gun laws in the county.”

“These bills [passed after the San Bernardino shooting] made our already strong laws even stricter,” he said Monday. “... In the absence of Congress passing laws on a national level, California will continue to act.”

Gov. Jerry Brown ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff. “Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those killed and injured in last night’s tragic and senseless shooting and we stand with the people of Nevada in this difficult time,” he said in a statement.

Several off-duty California police officers and firefighters were among the more than 500 people injured in the shooting.

Times-Standard city editor Ruth Schneider contributed to this report.

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