Democratic Rep.-elect Ami Bera weighed in on calls for stricter gun control laws in the wake of Friday's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, saying he hopes the rampage in Newton serves as a "wake up call that gives us the courage to engage in the conversation" about the politically sensitive issue.
"We have to be thoughtful in this approach but ... 27 people just lost their lives. We've had multiple tragedies here. We have to have the conversation. We have to have the courage to have the conversation," the Elk Grove Democrat told The Bee's editorial board today. "It is not an infringement on someone's rights if you ask them a few questions.
Bera called Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's plans to again try to revive a federal assault weapon ban a "good first step," but also said as a doctor he hopes to also take a close look at what can be done to improve mental health services to identify and help individuals who could become violent before they can do harm.
"That is a broader conversation than what kind of gun laws do we put in place and we have to have the courage to address that," he said. "I have to approach that as a doctor who has seen first hand how difficult it is."
The congressman-elect, who defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Lungren in one of the country's most competitive races, said he wasn't worried about potential backlash from pro-gun constituents in the 7th Congressional District, an east Sacramento County seat with a very narrow voter registration edge for Democrats.
"I also represent a district where parents don't want to be afraid of drop their kids off at at school," he said. "I think we want our children to grow up in an environment where they feel safe and secure."
PHOTO CREDIT:Democratic congressional candidate Ami Bera speaks with campaign supporters at the Elks Lodge in Carmichael, Calif. on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Manny Crisostomo, Sacramento Bee.