California shooting: Newly empowered Democrats vow action on gun control

Andrew Buncombe

Democrats – newly empowered after their taking control of the House – have vowed action on gun control, an issue that politicians on Capitol Hill have notoriously failed or refused to address.

Twelve people were killed, among them a police officer, after a gunman opened fire in a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, late on Wednesday. Police believe the suspected shooter, US Marine Corps veteran David Long, who took his own life, suffered from mental health issues.

Politicians in Washington have long been criticised for failing to do more to regulate access to weapons, with Republicans and Democrats alike being accused of being in the control of powerful lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association.

On Thursday, a number of Democrats said it was time for action. California senator Kamala Harris, who is considered a potential presidential hopeful in 202, urged congressional leaders that it was time to step up.

“Praying for the injured and the families of those killed who, like so many others, have lost their loved ones to gun violence. Leaders in Congress must act — not some day, but now,” she tweeted.

Congressman Jim Himes, whose home state of Connecticut endured the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, also attacked the lack of action on gun control after hearing about the mass shooting in California.

He told CNN: “I’m embarrassed to say…my first thought was, ‘here we go again, it’s this week’s mass shooting’, and that’s a really hard way to think about this. I contrast where we are today with how we all felt about Sandy Hook.”

He added: “This is a weekly thing (and) even though it’s become a weekly thing, nobody does anything, especially the Congress where I work.

“35,000 Americans dead a year as a result of gun violence and Congress can’t even find its way to studying the problem.”

Patrons at the bar screamed in fear, shouted “Get down”, and used barstools to smash second-floor windows and jump to safety as gunfire erupted at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a hangout popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University, the Associated Press reported.

The dead included 11 people inside the bar and a sheriff’s sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. “It’s a horrific scene in there,” Mr Dean told reporters as he stood in the parking lot. “There’s blood everywhere.”

Nevada congresswoman Dina Titus has failed to get much support for her support for gun reform, but vowed “that will change come January”, when Democrats take control of the House, Roll Call reported.

Ted Deutch of Florida, whose district includes the Parkland high school where 17 children and adults were killed earlier this year, said he was planning legislation to create a “National Gun Safety Administration”.

“There are always people who complain that we don’t blame cars for traffic deaths. And they say it’s people not guns,” he said. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a federal agency whose mission is, ‘Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes’.“

He added: “I’m introducing legislation to create the National Gun Safety Administration. Only difference? Substitute “”vehicle-related crashes” with “gun-related violence”. It’s time for people to save people – from gun violence.”