Tampa Bay area advocates for gun control put their hopes in the GOP-led House

Riegel told CL that Ross had said he supported expanding background checks in April, but the Hillsborough resident later heard that the congressman no longer did. At the meeting, Riegel asked Ross to support the King/Thompson bill.

As Riegel told CL in an e-mail, "He said he had not read the bill and would ask his staff to obtain a copy for him. Luckily, I had brought the 50 page bill with me so I gave it to Rep. Ross (This was met with a lot of applause from those in attendence!). He thanked me and asked for my contact information."

A representative from Congressman Ross' office confirmed the account this afternoon.

Outside the Brandon center before the meeting, supporters of the legislation stood in the rain with a sign
that read "5,651," denoting the number of deaths by guns in America since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last December. They also placed chairs with photos of the 20 children who were killed in that attack.

Activist Ione Townsend said of the 5.651 deaths, close to 350 have happened in Florida, 24 of them children. "We have to do something," she told CL, expressing frustration that the emails and phone calls she and her friends made have yet to convince Ross to support the legislation. "It's a no brainer to me," she said.

Townsend referenced the polls in Florida that show overwhelming support for such a bill. "What are the obstacles? Other than party ideology or a primary challenger?" she asked.

The King-Thompson bill could only be considered controversial if you don't believe in any regulations for guns. It would expand the existing background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the Internet, or in classified ads.

Currently, guns purchased over the net, through a newspaper ad, or in the parking lot of a gun show undergo no background checks. The legislation also bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

  • Gun-control supporters placed chairs and pictures of the slain children of the Sandy Hook tragedy outside of a town hall meeting held by Congressman Dennis Ross on Tuesday

Although a universal background check on gun purchases went down to defeat in the Senate last April, gun-control advocates in the Tampa Bay area are now pinning their hopes for a passage of a similar bill that has been introduced in the House and currently has more than 150 co-sponsors.

On Wednesday night, a small group of the bill's supporters held a vigil outside of the Brandon Regional Service Center before Polk County Congressman Dennis Ross spoke at a town hall meeting.

In the meeting, Hillsborough County resident Matt Riegel asked Ross if he supported H.R. 1565, sponsored by California Democrat Mike Thompson and New York Republican Peter King.

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.