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Assault Weapon Restrictions First Target on New Congressman's Agenda

Eric Swalwell plans to co-sponsor an assault weapons ban as he gets ready to join the debate on the debt ceiling and Hurricane Sandy aid. Let the congressman know your views on these issues.

New congressman Eric Swalwell isn't waiting long to jump into an issue that is sure to bring him some heat.

The Dublin Democrat plans to co-sponsor a bill that places restrictions on private ownership of assault weapons.

It's the first bill Swalwell will put his name on. That legislation is expected to be introduced by mid-January.

It'll come just weeks after Swalwell and other members of the 113th Congress took their oath of office. It also is one of many politically charged issues the new representatives will debate.

Among them are the debt ceiling, aid for Hurricane Sandy victims and Swalwell's idea to set up a "mobile Congress."

What do you think about all these issues? Use the comments section to let your elected representatives how you'd like them to vote.

Swalwell will also be writing an occasional blog about his experiences in Washington.

Swalwell officially got down to business on Thursday when he and other members got sworn in. They first took the oath as a group on the House floor in the morning and then that afternoon got to individually take the oath again at a re-enactment with House Speaker John Boehner.

Swalwell said both ceremonies provoked different emotions. The House floor vote overwhelmed because as he looked around and saw 435 hands in the air, he realized the importance of the moment.

"I got hit by a semi-truck of emotions," said the 32-year-old congressman. "It was the realization we are designated with leading the country. It's a big responsibility."

The re-enactment had a different feel. He was surrounded by his parents, other family members, friends and constituents.

"That ceremony made me realize how many people it took to get this done," said Swalwell.

The new congressman was also appointed to the Homeland Security Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

His first vote was in a losing cause. Swalwell joined other Democrats in casting their ballot for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) for Speaker of the House. Boehner won re-election to that post.

Disarray in Congress

Last week, Democrats watched as Republicans fought internal battles over the speakership, fiscal cliff legislation and spending cuts. Some pundits are saying the Republican House members are in more disarray than ever.

"I think what we're seeing is far right extremists taking over the (Republican) caucus," said Swalwell.

That split showed up again when the House voted Friday on a relief package for Hurricane Sandy victims.

The original bill was for $60 billion in assistance, but some Republicans balked because they felt corresponding spending cuts should be made elsewhere.

The House ended up approving a $9.7 billion aid package for federal flood insurance participants on a 354-67 vote. All the "no" votes were Republicans. The remaining $51 billion is scheduled for discussion on Jan. 15.

Swalwell voted in favor of Friday's bill and will vote "yes" on the $51 billion package, too.

He said it's the federal government's duty to help victims of natural disasters, no matter where they occur.

"We come together in these situations and it's usually bi-partisan," said Swalwell. "We have to assume there will be a need for San Francisco earthquake relief some day."

Assault Weapons Ban

The next major issue is expected to be assault weapon restrictions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is promising to introduce such a bill in the Senate. Swalwell says he will co-sponsor a House bill on the same topic.

Swalwell says as an Alameda County prosecutor he saw the impact assault weapons have on their victims. It's not just the number and size of the bullets, he says, it's the velocity at which they travel.

"When a person gets hit by assault weapons ammunition, they have no chance," he said. "There is no reason for civilians to carry military-style assault weapons."

Swalwell said he isn't afraid of the political heat he's bound to take from the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment fundamentalists.

"I'm more worried about people who become victims of gun violence," he said.

Swalwell also supports reforming the nation's mental health system and strengthening security at schools.

Debt Ceiling

Within 60 days, Congress will once again square off over the federal government's debt ceiling.

Swalwell plans to vote to raise that limit. He agrees with President Obama that this is for expenses the government has already rang up and we have an obligation to pay them.

However, after the vote, Swalwell said Congress needs to get serious about spending cuts, so the ceiling issue is no longer a factor.

"It's incremental government. We can't keep kicking the can down the road," he said.

Once option Swalwell wants to explore is raising the cap on Social Security tax payments. Right now, Social Security taxes are collected only on the first $110,000 a person earns. After that, no tax is paid.

Swalwell says that's a "regressive tax" and the cap should be raised to bring in more revenue for Social Security.

Mobile Congress

An idea being floated by Swalwell is to make the House more of a "mobile Congress."

With the technology available today, Swalwell says there is no reason to require Congressional representative to be physically present to conduct business.

He said members should be able to video conference and telecommute, so they can spend more time in their districts.

He wants to try the idea at the committee level first, then see if it can work on the House as a whole.

"The goal is to make Congress more accessible," he said. "It's time. It's the 21st century."

Nadja Adolf January 10, 2013 at 08:39 AM
First, a firearms lesson. AR-15 mounted on the wall is not the same as having an available firearm for use. In close quarters a pistol is preferred as the attacker may grab the barrel of a rifle of shotgun. Second, it appears that poor Mr. Miller was killed almost immediately upon the entry of his killers. This suggests to me that Mr. Miller was killed by a disgruntled customer or someone else that he could identify. In an event such as happened to poor Mr. Miller, the killers obviously intended to kill him from the start since they apparently walked in and shot him immediately. There is very little that one can do in such an incident, if one is alone - perhaps the most chilling case I know of is the women working in a convenience store in Lane County, Oregon, where my brother and other nurses used to stop on the way to work. A robber came in and killed them even though they complied in every way with his demands. The nurses were very shaken to see these women brought in dead when they had seen them alive and chatted with them only a few hours earlier. However, the case of Mr. Miller does not negate the nearly one million effective self-defense uses of firearms every year in the United States.
Nadja Adolf January 10, 2013 at 08:45 AM
It seems poor Mr. Miller was killed almost immediately upon the entry of his killer(s.) This suggests to me that Mr. Miller was killed by a disgruntled customer or someone else that he could identify. This is unfortunately not rare in robberies. The DOJ statistic quoted misleadingly as "a friend or loved one" actually means an acquaintance - a definition which includes someone who has been into a store before to check out how to best rob it. (It also includes members of rival gangs.) The killers obviously intended to kill him from the start since they apparently walked in and shot him immediately. Owning a firearm that isn't ready for immediate use won't save you - hanging on the wall isn't accessible. The most chilling case I know of is the women working in a convenience store in Lane County, Oregon, where my brother and other nurses used to stop on the way to work. A robber came in and killed them even though they complied in every way with his demands. The nurses were very shaken to see these women brought in dead when they had seen them alive and chatted with them only a few hours earlier. However, the case of Mr. Miller does not negate the nearly one million effective self-defense uses of firearms every year in the United States.
Tim January 10, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Edward, tell that to Madera pharmacy owner Brian Lee who was working when armed thugs stormed in shooting. He was armed and was able to fire back and kill one of the thugs. He was able to save his life and his mothers life all because he DID have a gun. Was he lucky, absolutely. Could he still have been killed, of course. But you'd have to be a complete fool to think he'd have been better off without a gun. I would expect better logic from someone who's allegedly served in the military. Update from CBS Fresno... http://www.cbs47.tv/news/local/story/Second-Suspect-Arrested-in-Madera-Pharmacy/uHGppWKoGkaNN49j6WRisQ.cspx Lee who is ex military carries a .45. And is glad he had his gun. “Of course because the Madera Chief said if it weren't for that, we'd be two corpses,” Lee said.
Tim January 10, 2013 at 09:40 AM
Technically Nick Meli was legally armed and in no violation of state law in OR, however, that mall was a posted "gun free zone" with "no firearms" signs (they don't carry force of law) so it's possible the shooter expected a bunch of unarmed sitting ducks and probably crapped himself when confronted by someone else with a gun. These cowards have a common theme of choosing places where they are assured no one will have a concealed weapon on their person to return fire.
Country Mouse January 13, 2013 at 06:31 AM
I have found the same similarities that you suggest. Interesting.

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