Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan called it a “publicity stunt”. The “it” refers to the unprecedented action by House Democrats to stage a sit-in on the floor of the House chamber to force a vote on gun safety legislation. He might be right since “publicity”, especially negative publicity and in an election year, might be the only tactic that might jar the so-called “do nothing Congress” to finally take some action regarding the ongoing threat to our society posed by the unfettered access to firearms by even those on the Terrorist Watch List.
Speaker Ryan is clearly concerned about establishing a precedent that would encourage ignoring House rules regarding which pieces of legislation make it to the House floor for debate and voting. The rules are the rules and the majority party in the House, currently the Republicans, make the rules and are in the position to choose the legislation to be debated on the House floor.
I can understand the value of not breaking the rules. I would strongly suggest, however, that the rules of the House should not take precedence over the role and responsibility of Congress. The primary role and responsibility of Congress, as I see it, is to pass legislation designed to protect in some way, shape or form the citizenry of this nation.
That role, more than any other, is why Congress exists. That is why the rather drastic action of a sit-in was warranted despite the violation of rules. That is why providing “our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families” no longer cuts it as an acceptable Congressional response to the epidemic of gun violence in this country. That is why this unprecedented action by House Democrats had to be taken and why it superseded any House rules.
Enough truly is enough!
The issue that caused the need for such drastic action on the part of the Democrats didn’t even rise to the level of a discussion of proposed legislation. The issue was Speaker Ryan’s decision not to even allow a discussion and vote on two pieces of gun safety legislation. One bill attempts to close the so called “gun show and internet sales loophole” involving background checks on those who seek to purchase firearms. The other piece of legislation concerns making it a bit more difficult for individuals on the Terrorist Watch List, including those on the “no fly list”, from easily obtaining firearms.
To be honest, there are legitimate issues on both sides of this debate. The due process rights of citizens as provided in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution should not be taken lightly just as rights under the Second Amendment should not be taken lightly. However, whether we are talking about requiring gun purchases at a gun show or over the internet to undergo the same level of scrutiny as is performed for purchases at gun dealerships OR requiring individuals who find themselves on the no fly list or the Terrorist Watch List to be subjected to additional levels of scrutiny before purchasing a firearm, the reality is that there are legitimate opportunities for compromise on both of these issues.
There is a legitimate argument, for example, that some individuals on the Terrorist Watch List are unaware of that fact and depriving them of a gun purchase could jeopardize an FBI surveillance of that individual. Possibly. Should the FBI at least be notified about the attempted sale sometime during the waiting period and, maybe, just maybe, adjusting the waiting period to accommodate the needs of the FBI? Worthy of discussion, I would say.
Is there any justification for allowing anyone, especially potential terrorists, to purchase a firearm at a gun show or over the internet to avoid the same level of scrutiny that law abiding gun owners are subjected to when purchasing a firearm from a reputable, licensed gun dealer? I would think not, but certainly worthy of further discussion.
My point, then, is that these are areas requiring some level of discussion to reach a compromise to at least make it a bit more difficult for those who wish to do our citizens harm the easy access to firearms that is currently available to them. Yet, the decision by the Speaker of the House is to stymie this critical debate necessary to reach a bi-partisan compromise.
Result: the drastic action of a sit-in in Congress by members of Congress. As a child of the 60’s, I am quite familiar with sit-ins. I well remember the anti-Vietnam War sit-ins at my college as a student and I remember quite well that the sit-ins were intended to get those in authority to listen. That is the same purpose of the Congressional sit-in. To get someone, in this case Paul Ryan, to listen and to listen to the needs of our citizens and not just the wishes of the NRA.
Clearly, there is no logical explanation for preventing a discussion and a vote other than fear of the NRA and the price some elected officials may pay if they vote against the will of the NRA.
To this I say, once again, enough is enough. It is time that our political leaders, all of them, put the best interests of our society and that of future generations ahead of the next election and the threat of the NRA to that next election.
It is time that this “do nothing Congress” do something about the unacceptable ease of access to guns and not use its “rules” as an excuse for continuing to do nothing. Congress has a responsibility. Meet it! Allow a vote!