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Pelosi Would 'Rather Pass Gun-Safety Legislation Than Win the Election'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) address gun violence during a news conference at the Capitol on Feb. 15, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The head of House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force said the caucus is going to focus on stricter background checks for gun purchases in the wake of Wednesday’s high school massacre in Florida, because trying to renew the assault weapons ban “is an issue that’s much thornier to deal with” and “harder a hurdle.”

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced legislation with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) in November to expand existing background check requirements to gun shows, the internet and classified ads, with limited exceptions for family and friend transfers.

“The idea that we’d be able to do something on assault weapons goes beyond a heavy lift. And as the leader said, I’m a gun owner. I support the Second Amendment. I also carried an assault weapon for tour of duty in Vietnam. I know what they’re used for, I know what they’re capable of, and personally I believe there’s no place in a civilized society to have these things,” Thompson told reporters at a press conference on Capitol Hill today.

“We don’t need them, we know the damage that they’ve done, and if you go back, if you go to Sandy Hook, if you go now to Florida, if you go to any of the mass shootings that we’ve seen, Las Vegas, it is in fact the weapon of choice, and it’s the weapon of choice because it was designed to be able to bring pure hell and fury to anyone it’s used against,” he added.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she wants a special House committee, like that which investigated the Benghazi attack, to explore gun violence.

“We could bring up the background check legislation, which is bipartisan and overwhelming supported by the American people. We could expand it to include gun shows, as well as online purchases, but also some other technicalities that we think would tighten it,” Pelosi said.

“There’s a lot we can do right now because many people will die, and while you’re talking about assault weapons and some of the mass murders that we have seen so cruelly do violence, to not only these children and their families and their classmates, but to character of America, who we are as a country tolerating such a thing, and not preventing it. We could have some serious work done to save lives,” she said.

Linking the issue to midterms, Pelosi declared she’d “rather pass gun-safety legislation than win the election, because people die from this,” later adding, “Whose political survival in this body is more important than the survival of our children?”

“If this background check were brought up in the House, it would win. Under a Republican Congress, and with bipartisan support for it, it would win. And so we’re saying, just give us a vote. Just give us a vote,” she said. “Now with the much higher visibility of this issue than it was 10 years ago or so, I think that there might be a chance to prevail in the Senate.”