As I write this, the Democratic Caucus of the House of Representatives has refused to relinquish the floor of the House over gun control measures and there has been another mass shooting; this time in Germany.
In the aftermath of the carnage of Orlando, I felt changed. Maybe it was the straw the broke the camel’s back after too many mass shootings. Maybe I felt more impacted this time because the target in Orlando was the LGBT community- my community. Regardless of why it was that Orlando changed me, what is important that I can no longer find tenable to current status of gun laws.
I was, therefore, overjoyed by the filibuster that was started by Senators Murphy and Booker and organically joined by the majority of Democratic Senators (notably absent was Senator Sanders). And even more so when there was an agreement on votes. The two ideas-expanding background checks and the so-called “no fly no buy” bills and their Republican counterparts- seemed a small step in the right direction. The expansion of background checks seemed to be logical and easy. Oppositely the no fly no buy law was rather thorny.
Because the no fly lists are classified and bureaucratic (and rightfully so) there are going to be mistakes in terms of putting someone who isn’t a threat on the list. We need look no further than Rep. John Lewis and Senator Ted Kennedy, both of whom were accidentally on the list at some point. The Democratic bill would, thus run against the due process of an American citizen’s Second Amendment (thanks D.C. v Heller) . But the Republican bill would give a scant three days to conduct an investigation, which would essentially do nothing because no reasonably thorough investigation or case could occur. Though there is a compromise bill in the works by Senator Susan Collins, it is unclear what path that bill will ultimately take.
Into this already-churning miasma the House Democrats, led by Reps. Lewis and Clark led a good old-fashioned sit-in on the House floor and have as of yet refused to relinquish the floor despite the House Leadership passing laws over their head and heading out for their July 4th break. My Facebook feed was exploding with angry conservatives calling the Democrats babies and decrying their actions as political theater.
Well of course it’s political theater! Its the same political theater all politicians do! Political theater is a necessary part of politics; it is how politicians draw attention to the issue they care about and energize their base. This theater was present when Sen. Ted Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham in the Senate in a fake filibuster over Obamacare. This was the same theater used by Sen. Rand Paul when he protested the Patriot Act. This was the same theater of the filibuster of Sens. Murphy and Booker. This dramatic act of political theater comes when the powerless minority in the House has had enough and wanted to take their issue directly to the people.
And the people answered their call. Impromptu gatherings happened last night in front of the Capitol Building. Senators gathered in solidarity in the House Chamber. Reporters and others gathered in the Gallery above the House and booed House Republicans and Speaker Paul Ryan for his refusal to take up a gun bills. The energy was such that I, even on the other side of the country, longed to join the gathering on the National Mall.
Because enough is enough. I am tired of the constant death. I am tired of the fact that weapons of war are readily available to people wanting to commit heinous crimes. I am tired of the fact that this is the new normal. I am tired of the NRA and their stranglehold on Congress. I am tired of the Supreme Court precedents that have taken away the ability to pass laws because they read the Second Amendment as being toward individual ownership and not collective.
What we need is concerted and prolonged action around gun rights. More filibusters, more sit-ins, more collective action protests in the states. We need common sense gun laws that remove weapons of war from our streets. We need laws that limit the amount of bullets in a clip. We need laws increasing mental illness funding. We need universal background checks. We need to get rid of the notion of the individual right of a person to own a gun and move the constitutional right toward collective ownership that allows for gun ownership to be a privilege such as a driver’s license and not a right. We need to invest in smart gun technology that can use the gun industry’s own innovation to make changes.
More than anything else, we must refuse to accept that in America we have greater than zero chance of dying when we go to school, to church, or to a club. We must refuse to be complacent in the midst of an ongoing massacre of our fellow citizens.