Today, about 100 House Democrats took over the floor of the House of Representatives after having refused calls by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to come to order. Ryan called for a recess and closed official House business. However, Democrats remained in the chamber and got up from the floor to speak from the lectern to condemn Republicans on gun legislation.
Leading them was Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), one of the last remaining leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement and a towering presence among black Democrats and progressives during his decades of service in the House. The historic symbolism was obvious as Lewis and his colleagues, some wearing the symbol of Gay Liberation in their lapels, sat at the front of the chamber.
"Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long," Lewis said. "There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more."
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden expressed their approval of the sit-in, while Democrat Hillary Clinton paid a visit to the Capitol. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats from the Senate came to lend support, while some brought snacks and cold drinks.
Speaker Ryan told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the sit-in was a "publicity stunt." "Calling this a sit-in is a disgrace to Woolworth's," Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) "They sat-in for rights. Dems are 'sitting-in' to strip them away." For his part, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) posted, "Democrats are staging a sit-in on the House floor. They refuse to leave until our Constitution replaces due process with secret lists." Today's Democratic sit-in coincided with the release of the Republicans' alternative to Obamacare.
House Democrats are calling for a vote on legislation that the Senate has already turned down earlier this week. The measures would have created watchlists of persons who the federal government would bar from buying firearms. Both the National Rifle Association and the America Civil Liberties Union expressed strong opposition to the measures, as did the majority of Senate Republicans.
Gun control advocates and many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, are calling for a total ban on “assault weapons.” Little discussion has been noted in the House or among Democrats about the incidence of illegal firearms getting into the hands of criminals.
For example, the New York City Police Department seized more than 2,500 guns in 2014, most of the m in Brooklyn, according to a police report. This came during a period of relatively low levels of shootings and weapons possession in the Big Apple. The smuggling of weapons from outside of the city and state of New York were blamed. In 2014, the number of seizures generally outpaced the number of people who were shot, with high gun recovery rates in areas that had high numbers of shootings, data show. Police pulled guns off the streets in areas where there have been no shootings in at least two years.
Anti-gun activists say that the majority of the firearms recovered are illegally possessed and from out of state. Federal data from 2013 shows that Florida, Virginia and North Carolina are the top three sources of out-of-state guns in New York. According to Leah Barret of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, half a million guns are stolen each year.
In St. Louis MO, for instance, by August 2015 there were 200 homicides: the most in 20 years. Also, gun thefts were up nearly 70 percent. Thieves frequently targeted gunowners’ cars and trucks. In San Francisco, the gun an illegal immigrant used to shoot Kathryn Steinle was stolen. And by August 2015, Chicago police had seized almost 4,700 guns, almost all of which were stolen. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that figure was seven times more guns seized than New York City, and three times the number in Los Angeles. Guglielmi said, “These are guns that are on the streets used to fuel the violence in Chicago.”
Democrats appear to be capitalizing on the shock Americans feel over the June 12 shooting in Orlando, where a Muslim terrorist shot to death 49 persons and wounded 53 more. The discussion on the House floor has not focused on Islamic terrorism or national security but on the weapons used to carry out mass murder.
Figures in a report by NYPD shows that black Americans in New York City suffer disproportionately from gun violence. According to the police, victims of murder and non-negligent manslaughter are most frequently black (63.7%) or Hispanic (27.6%). White victims accounted for only 6% of all Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter victims in New York City in 2015. Asian /Pacific Islanders account for 2.7% of all Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter victims.
Also, the figures for the race and/or ethnicity of known Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter suspects mimics those for their victims. Black Americans account for 62.1% of the suspects, while Hispanic suspects amounted to 29.6%: therefore accounting for the majority of suspects. White suspects account for 5.8% of all Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter suspects while Asian/Pacific Islanders accounted for 2.5%. Data provided by the FBI also suggests that a disproportionate number of the victims and perpetrators of such violent crimes are black or Hispanic, nationally.
In an interview with EWTN, Star Parker of Urban CURE said that both sides of the divide over Second Amendment rights are missing the bigger picture. The concentration of poverty and violence in black communities, Parker said, can be blamed on the War on Poverty, which she said has “broken family life.”
Parker said “It is underappreciated that in the ‘60s, 78 percent of black households had husbands married to the mother of their children. Today it’s exactly the opposite.” Children born outside of marriage, she said, is the root of the problem. “Many of the black leaders, including church leaders, have not reconciled that fact yet, and that’s why their communities are under attack.”