After 25 hours, House Democrats ended a sit-in on the floor of Congress in an effort to force the hand of Republican lawmakers to address the issue of gun control in a little less than two weeks after a tragic shooting rampage at an Orlando night club which targeted members of the LGBTQIA community.
What the Democrats have to show for their demonstration thereafter, according to the Daily Beast, doesn’t amount to much in the short term, but rather the hopes of an invigorated party moving forward on gun control legislation.
One of the more memorable images will surely be that of John Lewis, noted for his Civil Rights movement past, who helped define the tactics and the strategy of setting the foundation for something more. Lewis’s comments after the sit-in ended alluded to future hopes that the Democrats will win out.
“You got out there, you got in the way, you got in trouble, necessary trouble, and we must never ever give up. We must come back here, more determined than ever before.”
The debate heated up after four separate gun control bills failed in the Senate on Monday. The Republican and Democratic parties each brought two bills to the table, their respective responses to the massacre in Orlando earlier in the month and last week’s Democratic filibuster, as reported on by Mother Jones, but votes ended up falling along party lines with none of the four bills attaining the required 60 votes to pass, leading up to the Democratic sit-in.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) presented a bill that would have allowed the Department of Justice to block guns sales to persons who were on the FBI’s terrorist watch list in the last five years if there was a reason to believe the weapon could be used in an attack. It was rejected by a 47-53 vote.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) proposed a bill to require background checks for all gun purchases. This included both online purchases and gun shows. The bill required court and mental health records to be considered in the checks. It failed to pass by a 44-56 vote.
On the other side of the aisle, legislation presented by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) garnered the most votes, 53 in favor for both bills. Senator Grassley’s bill maintained that sales should be blocked to people who have a history of mental illness, whereas Senator Corbyn’s bill would have imposed a 72-hour waiting period on sales to suspected terrorists to allow time for law enforcement to investigate.
After each of the above bills failed, a compromise was sought by a bipartisan effort, led by Republican Senator Susan Collins or Maine, to bridge the divide, focusing on what has been dubbed the “No Fly, No Buy” bill. On Tuesday, Collins argued that the bill was designed to prevent gun sales to anyone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list, and thereby the no-fly list.
“Essentially, we believe if you are too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun.”
The effort was criticized by Republicans and civil liberties organizations.
The Democrat’s sit-in failed to rectify the distance between lawmakers, resulting in accusations of engaging in publicity stunts, by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and short-sighted by voters on the left.
Some of the harshest criticisms came from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which objected to the use of the methodology of the FBI’s terrorist watch list as the basis for the Democrat bill dubbed No Fly, No Buy.
In a letter directed to Senator Collins, the ACLU laid out their case against the No Fly, No Buy logic.
“Our nation’s watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names.”
[Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]