Early in the morning on Sunday, June 12 a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 more at an Orlando gay nightclub. The lone shooter used a rifle similar to an AR-15 – a Sig Sauer MCX, which was originally designed for the U.S. Special Operations forces.
The tragic event sparked further outrage over the United States’ current gun control laws, which allow these types of guns to be purchased by the public.
Last week, Democrats held a 25-hour sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to force a gun vote, protesting the Republican leadership’s refusal to pass proposed Senate and House bills on the issue. They also protested a bill by Texas Senator John Cornyn, which Democrats said was written in part by the National Rifle Association.
The GOP, in control of Congress, recessed the session, switched off C-SPAN cameras and the public video feed. In response, Democrats streamed the protest from their phones.
In response to the sit-in, San Antonio, Houston, Austin and other cities around the country participated in a national day of action for an overhaul on gun laws.
Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, representing the 35th district, was there on the floor. He told the Standard the gun laws need drastic changes, but he says there is hope.
“These tragedies demand extraordinary action and we’ve gotten none to date,” he says. “We have some hopeful developments as a result of our action last week.”
Those who oppose the “No fly, no buy” bill, many of them Republican, say that by design the bill may deny a constitutional right to those on government watch lists – where the names on the list are a government secret. But Doggett says the current bill has measures to address that issue.
“This bill incorporates due process rights by giving anyone who’s on that list an opportunity to challenge it in federal court,” he says. “It adequately protects the public and provides due process rights.”
After bashing the sit-in as a publicity stunt and fundraising effort, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in a conference call last week that a measure to keep people on government terrorism watch lists will come to a vote.
“There’s no way – after years of Republicans denying us an opportunity to deal with this issue – that (Ryan) would be bringing (the vote) up but for the intense public interest, some of which was stimulated by our protest,” Doggett says. “It remains to be seen whether he is bringing it up in a way that does really focus on this issue.”
Doggett says part of Ryan’s plan could structure the vote in some way designed to urge a Democratic ‘No’ vote, as what happened with the recent Zika virus funding bill.
“I hope that this really does represent a coming together,” Doggett says. “That’s what we need beyond a reasonable approach that is rejected by the National Rifle Association, but supported by even many of its members as responsible gun owners who don’t want terrorists getting access to weapons.”
But Katie Leslie, a Washington correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, says the vote will to amount to few changes, especially because it’s a presidential election year and both sides are looking to score political points.
“I’d be surprised if we see any really meaningful gun control reform because the sides are so far apart on this issue that I don’t see either of them really capitulating to the other,” she says. “If there is anything they can agree upon – keeping in mind the Republicans do control the House and Senate – I’d be surprised if it is a sweeping reform.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.