Pelosi-Speier call for tougher gun background checks in San Francisco

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a town hall meeting on gun laws on Tuesday night, speaking to a crowd of hundreds who filled the auditorium of Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. 

Pelosi was joined by a panel of four other women in a conversation about gun violence that was passionate and often personal. 

"Common sense background checks. Gun violence prevention. We have said we are not taking no for an answer. We will not take no for an answer," Pelosi said.

Pelosi was joined by a teenager, A.J. Santiago, a youth member of United Playaz,  who spoke in tears about her friend Day'van Hann, 15, a Lincoln sophomore who was shot and killed last month in the Mission.

"Nobody said, 'I love you,' one last time to him and it was all because of one bullet that went straight through his heart," said Santiago, a Burton High School Student.

Pelosi and Congresswoman Jackie Speier, herself a shooting survivor, reminded the crowd that the House had already passed HR-8 on Feb. 27 by a vote of 240-190, that would enact universal background checks by requiring gun sellers who are unlicensed to go through a licensed gun dealer and subject the sale to the same federal background check.

"We already have that law in the books. This just closes loopholes, because when the law was already passed in 1993, the internet wasn't around," Speier said. "Gun shows weren't common place." 

California's Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris spoke about the impact of gun violence on children and said it is a health crisis.

"We hear all about the opioid epidemic, the opioid crisis. In fact, Congress moved to enact bipartisan legilslation about the opioid crisis. Where is our bipartisan support about the public health crisis of guns?"  Harris asked.

The panel urged people to show a groundswell of grassroots support.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action says it's time for people to get off the sidelines and demand gun legislation passed.

"We have been working in state houses and in board room across the country and that we have passed stronger background checks in 28 states, we have passed red flag laws in 17 states," said Watts, "We have many gun owners in our group, or married to gun owners. Eighty percent of gun owners in this country agree that we need stronger gun laws that will save lives. The vocal minority shouldn't be writing our gun laws anymore."

Watts added an election-year message to lawmakers, "If you do the right thing. We will have your back. If you do the wrong thing. We will have your job." 

Within the Democratic party there is some dissent about whether to call for a reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire. 

Does Pelosi see a renewed ban as something viable to push forward as Congress reconvenes? 

"I think the focus has to stay on getting a Senate vote on the background check legislation," she said. "And I've said to people once we push open that door, we can walk through with many other suggestions we have. But we must not dissipate our energy in too many other directions." 

Pelosi said she has not spoken directly with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But out loud, she told the crowd: "Keep the focus on Mitch McConnell. Give us a vote. Hell to pay if you don't." 

McConnell refused to call the Senate back from summer break to vote on HR-8 following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. He has indicated that he'll consider taking up background checks and red flag laws when the Senate reconvenes in September.