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Democrats Force Protest Votes in the House Over Gun Violence

  • Cindy Saine

Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate used procedural tactics Tuesday to try to get Republican leaders to take up legislation to respond to the recent spate of mass killings in the United States.

In the House, minority Democrats were led by California Representative Mike Thompson: who said: “Since the House won’t take up legislation to prevent the senseless deaths of 30 people killed today by someone using a gun, I move that the House be adjourned.”

Democrats introduced measures to adjourn four times, forcing one vote after another, which were defeated each time, stalling floor action on other measures.

The Democrats filed a discharge petition to try to get a bill co-authored by Thompson and Republican Peter King, “The Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” brought to the floor for a vote.

The measure would prevent any suspected terrorists who are registered on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s so-called ”no-fly list” from buying a gun.

The Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate opposes the legislation, saying some innocent people end up on the list mistakenly, and no one cannot find out if he is on the list.

Democrats in the House would need some 30 Republicans to join them to get the denying firearms to terrorists bill passed, but only 3 or 4 Republicans support it so far.

Republicans have a history of strong opposition to any form of gun control legislation, saying the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Americans’ right to bear arms.

Push in Senate Fails Too

About the same time, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tried to introduce a similar measure in the U.S. Senate.

It was blocked by Republican Senator John Cornyn, who accused Democrats of playing politics in the aftermath of the shooting in San Bernardino, California last week that left 14 people dead.

Cornyn said: "This is about trying to change the subject and distract the American people from the fact that the president has no strategy to defeat [the Islamic State group] ISIS."

In another attempt to raise awareness of the issue, House Democrats held a forum Tuesday, inviting experts to a task force to try to find common sense solutions to what they call a gun violence “epidemic” in the United States.

Democratic Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said the mass shootings have become all too frequent, and called on Congress to do more than simply hold a moment of silence for the victims: “Our inaction is unconscionable. Our silence is just inconceivable. How can we remain silent? Enough is enough. No more violence. No more silence.”

Experts at the hearing included a gun show dealer, a Virginia police chief, a former U.S. surgeon general and a gun policy expert. They all agreed on the need for universal background checks for everyone who wants to buy a gun, with no exceptions.

Several witnesses pointed out though although high profile mass shootings capture public attention, the every day gun violence of suicides and homicides claims the lives of many more Americans each year.

In the U.S., there are twice as many suicides as homicides each year, and suicide attempts with guns are much more deadly than other kinds of attempts.

Petersburg, Virginia Police Chief John Dixon told VOA Congress needs to pass sensible legislation for the sake of American communities and the safety of police officers.