This week, House Democrats were lauded for their bravery as they staged a 25 hour sit-in at the Capitol to call for Congressional action on various gun control proposals. Earlier in the week, dueling gun proposals (pun intended) failed to gain cloture (procedural votes needed before the final vote) in the Senate which led to a showdown as the House moved to adjourn until after the July 4th recess.
My first thought was that these are the kind of stunts you resort to when you are in the minority. The Republicans used a similar strategy to advocate for offshore drilling a few years ago. (See Senator Chris Murphy’s 15 hour filibuster in the Senate before the gun control amendment votes.)
My second thought was this meme.
(Note: I worked on C Street for four years and I felt safer there than anywhere else I’ve even been because the Hill is crawling with Capitol Hill police officers. Heavily armed men are on the roof of the Capitol and those in Congressional leadership are accompanied by officers at all times while they are in the District. The obvious hypocrisy of disarming Americans while sitting in a heavily guarded building is glaring.)
By now, we’ve all seen the memes of Members sitting on the floor of the US House of Representatives. After C-Span cameras stopped filming when the House went out of session, Democratic lawmakers took to Facebook Live, Periscope, and social media to spread their messages of “no bill, no break” and “no fly, no buy”. House Republicans responded with “stop the stunt” tweets and headed home for the break. Speaker Ryan held a press conference in which he contended that the sit-in was a fundraising ploy. The live feeds and memes of the dramatic event trended worldwide.
When I saw the livestream, the person who stood out the most was Rep. John Lewis (D-5). Regardless of his uber progressive stances, I have the utmost respect for his courageous efforts during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s and beyond. Rep. Lewis led SNCC during sit-ins, Freedom Rides, “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, and gave a keynote speech at the March on Washington. Despite the overwhelming odds and personal suffering , he persevered in order to secure equal rights for Black Americans. That was true bravery. Sitting on the floor of the House chamber singing “We Shall Overcome” while eating catered meals and fighting to deny Americans the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms and have due process was a sad day in his career. (It is sad to see Civil Rights icons lending credibility to liberal movements in a bid to stay relevant.)
As many have pointed out none of the four failed amendments (one of which the National Rifle Association even endorsed) would have prevented the Orlando shooter legally obtaining firearms. The are many problems with arbitrarily placing Americans on “no fly” and “terrorist watch” lists: little public knowledge of criteria for the lists, lack of notification when one is placed on the lists, unclear process to appeal being placed on the lists, and the difficulties for those who have similar names to those who are rightly on the lists. Not to mention, the Second, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments are still in the Constitution.
Anecdotally, Rep. John Lewis made national headlines back in 2004 when he discovered that his name’s similarity to a person on the watch list was the reason for dozens of inspections by TSA on his weekly treks to Washington, D.C. In interviews, he publicly expressed frustration with his inability to remove his name from the list. If a sitting US Congressman had trouble getting off of a list, how would the average citizen fare?
After the July 4th recess, the Senate may consider a gun control amendment offered by moderate Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Katie Pavlich details the concerns about that purportedly bipartisan measure here.
“Democrat members are certainly free to stage a sit-in and shut down House floor activities as they have done. What would be infinitely more productive would be asking this Administration and the Department of Justice in particular why prosecutions of current gun law violations have decreased under their watch. There are already broad categories of persons prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition and those lists go largely without prosecution. Now House Democrats are asking for yet another list of persons – this time without any due process rights – so this Administration can fail to enforce that list of laws too. How does that make us safer?”-Rep. Trey Gowdy