Congress members say moments of silence not enough; call for gun control bills
Three members of Congress walked out during a moment of silence in the U.S. House of Representatives Monday night, refusing to participate in what they say is an empty gesture by lawmakers. Tuesday, calls for legislative action on guns grew louder on one side of the aisle, while silence on the issue was ever more deafening on the other. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a moment of silence “in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Orlando.”
At least three people walked out of the chamber during the moment, including Connecticut Representative Jim Hines, who earlier in the day told his colleagues on the floor that he would not participate.
“Silence. Not me. Not anymore. I will no longer stand here absorbing the faux concern, contrived gravity and tepid smugness of a House complicit in the weekly bloodshed,” Hines stated. “Sooner or later the United States will hold us accountable for our inaction.”
As soon as House Speaker Ryan banged the gavel to return the chamber to business as usual, the chamber erupted in voices calling action on gun control bills, and a showdown between the Ryan and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn ensued.
Ryan invoked parliamentary procedure to silence Representative Clyburn at the podium, and, over the raucous voices of US lawmakers calling for the Republican leader to bring gun control bills to the floor, he returned the body to consideration of an unrelated measure.
Tuesday morning, the two parties held dueling press conferences. The Democrats began with Caucus Chair, California Representative Xavier Becerra.
“I understand it’s important to express to the people of this country, this moment of silence, to let the families of the victims know that we’re thinking of them. But, by God, this is the people’s house and if we can’t stand up and then do something, then we’re in trouble,” Becerra says. “There are any number of things that could be done. We must do a better job of identifying and checking the background of those who seek to buy weapons, especially assault weapons. We can ask people to pass the legislation that Mike Thompson and has asked through a direct petition that every single member of the House sign onto so we can have this bill debated. To make sure that if you can’t fly, because you’re on a no-fly list because of your potential to commit terrorist acts, then you should not be able to buy a weapon by going into a gun shop and walking out with something that could let you do your mass destruction. We have to do a better job of responding to the red flags waved by people who are on the edge and showing signs of fanatic extremism or severe psychological strain. But what we shouldn’t do is simply bow our heads for a moment of silence. Unfortunately, that’s all Speaker Ryan would allow us to do yesterday.”
“These 49 victims join a long list of victims and families that are hurting because their Congress will stand for a moment of silence but do absolutely nothing. Don’t even talk about it, don’t even bring it up, don’t hold a hearing,” points out Caucus Vice Chair Representative Joe Crowley. “Call a select committee on umpteen other things, but not when it comes to gun violence in America. Nothing. Nada. Zip.”
“We’ve had over 30 moments of silence since the tragedy in Sandy Hook. We’ve had moments of silence ad nauseum. But I’ll tell you what we haven’t had. We haven’t had one single vote on any piece of legislation to address the issue of gun violence prevention,” says California Representative Mike Thompson. “We’ve not had one single vote on any piece of legislation that tries to make sure that we do everything possible to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting guns. It’s an embarrassment, it’s an act of cowardice. And we should all be ashamed of ourselves.”
“What is it that this continues to happen and we are the do-nothing Congress?” Florida Representative Corrine Brown asks. “Now, you know, this question about whether this was a hate crime, clearly it was a hate crime. It was a LGBT pride month and the club. I mean it was clear: a hate crime. Now, we in Congress need to do something other than that moment of silent prayer.”
“What we need is sustained action. Many moments of sustained action to get things done, to keep the American people safe. There are a number of solutions that will do that,” says David Cicillne from Rhode Island. “We’re calling on our Republican leaders in the House to bring those bills to the floor, let us debate them. I serve on the judiciary committee; we haven’t had one vote on a single measure that would help protect Americans from gun violence. It’s a national disgrace that that has not happened.”
The Republican leadership told the press that they plan to package a raft of anti-terrorism bills that have already passed in the U.S. House. They talked about terrorism, acts of war, and homegrown jihad; but the word “guns” was not uttered even once.