Three liberal Democrats boycotted the moment of silence on Tuesday at the House of Representatives for the 58 persons who were killed on Sunday evening in Las Vegas. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Himes (D-CT) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) remained true to their promise made in June 2016 in the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in which a Muslim terrorist killed 49 and injured 58 in Miami. Clark said that such displays of mourning or respect are but "empty gestures."
Moulton tweeted on Tuesday, “As after Orlando, I will NOT be joining my colleagues in a moment of silence on the House Floor that just becomes an excuse for inaction.” Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, says he wants “basic gun reform.” He tweeted a challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We can do something about this. Most Americans – including gun owners – support common sense action. What about you, Speaker Ryan?”
On October 2, Clark released a statement accusing Congressional leaders of “lining their pockets” with money from the “gun lobby” instead of scheduling votes on gun control measures. She wrote: “America is strong enough to have a conversation about ending gun violence, and families deserve a debate and a vote on measures that could save lives. But unfortunately, it’s almost certain that there will be no vote. The so-called leaders with the power to schedule that vote are too busy lining their pockets with cash from the gun lobby to notice the blood on their hands.”
In other tweets, Moulton wrote gibes to Speaker Ryan. For example, he wrote, “Speaker Ryan had planned a vote on a bill to deregulate firearm silencers, but it’s been pulled from the House schedule.” In another, he added, “Speaker Ryan, how many Americans have to die before you do your job? Allow us to have a debate and a vote. You're letting America down.” Clark and Moulton were just two of several members of Congress who walked out of the chamber in June 2016 to protest what they assert is government inaction on gun control.
"If the LGBT community has taught us anything, it's that silence is the enemy of progress. I refuse to take part in a moment of silence by a Congress that takes part in empty gestures rather than do something - anything - that could actually prevent these horrific acts from happening," Clark wrote in an online post after the Orlando shootings. More than a year later, Clark and Moulton refused silence again. They say the pattern of mass shootings must be answered with what Moulton refers to as "basic gun reform." He called the moment of silence "an excuse for inaction."
On the floor of the House chamber, Clark told her colleagues, "We’ve had our grisly House ritual of expressing our heartfelt grief, followed by a moment of silence. But the moments have extended into years. Families at home did not send us here for our thoughts and prayers. No one in this chamber was elected to tackle our country’s challenges with moments of silence.”
According to law enforcement officials in Las Vegas, shooter Stephen Paddock had two "bump-stocks," which are legal devices that can be used to allow semi-automatic rifles fire rounds at nearly the rate of automatic weapons. Democrats have introduced legislation to ban these devices, which were allowed under a decision reached by the Obama administration. Republicans in Congress, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said this week that any debate about "is premature." Speaker Ryan said there is no plan for the House to act soon regarding a silencer bill, which would decrease the sound of gunshots.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.