Can’t you come to the table? Can’t we have a discussion? Can’t we say enough is enough?
Yesterday, starting at 11:25 a.m., House Democrats staged a dramatic sit-in protest on the floor of the House of Representatives, demanding a vote on legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists of being able to purchase a gun and require universal background checks. The historic protest was led by Georgia Democrat John Lewis who knows a thing or two about civil disobedience and protests. Republicans, obeying orders from their NRA benefactors, refused to hold the vote. They did, however, manage to hold votes on some other items including an attempt to override President Obama’s veto of legislation that would relieve investment bankers/advisors from their fiduciary responsibility to give advice about retirement investments that is in the best interest of consumers instead of their own personal profit. It failed.
Throughout the protest, the House Democrats were joined by some of their Senate counterparts like Michigan Senator Gary Peters and several hundred people gathered outside to show their support.
The protest continues as I write this, nearly 23 hours later, despite the fact that, in a profound act of cowardice, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan adjourned the House at 3:13 in the morning so that Republicans could slip out under cover of darkness to go on vacation until July 5th.
In another cowardly act during the protest, Ryan also shut off C-SPAN’s coverage of the House activities. Democrats responded by turning to Periscope, live-streaming the protest over the internet via cellphones. C-SPAN assisted by broadcasting the Periscope stream.
One of the most profound speeches during the protest was delivered by Congresswoman Debbie Dingell from Michigan’s 12th Congressional District. Dingell has been an outspoken advocate for sensible gun control laws and, after the Sandy Hook massacre, penned a poignant op-ed for the Washington Post describing her experience as a young child where her father nearly killed her and her mother with a gun.
Here is Congresswoman Dingell’s speech. The video quality is poor because of Ryan’s media blackout. My transcription is below.
I’ve been on the floor for 12 hours and I can’t believe what we’ve… I’ve never actually thought I would sit on the floor of the House of Representatives. And it’s been a tough day in some ways. But it’s also…
You know, when Orlando happened, I cannot … last night, I have to say to you, I sat with Amy Klobuchar, who I am working on a domestic abuse gun bill with, and said, “It’ll never change.”
The number of horrific shootings, we’re all gonna say, “Isn’t this terrible.” We’ll offer our prayers and we’ll go back to normal, whatever the “normal” is we’ve come to accept, and wait until the next shooting.
And yet today we showed that that’s not what’s gonna to happen.
We also always let the big things… And as so many of my colleagues have talked about, we don’t focus on what’s happening every day. We don’t focus on the daily shootings or how our young people are beginning to accept that that’s just what happens. And we don’t focus on what’s happening and who has access.
I feel this House is torn in a way that I feel torn. I’m married to a man… You all know how much I love John Dingell. He’s the most important thing in my life. And yet for 35 years, there’s been a source of tension between the two of us. He is a responsible gun owner. He believes in the Constitution. I respect that.
I don’t want to take his gun away or anybody else’s gun. But I lived in a house with a man that should not have had access to a gun. I know what it’s like to see a gun pointed at you and wonder if you were going to live. And I know what it’s like to hide in a closet and pray to God, “Do not let anything happen to me.” And we have never… We don’t talk about it. We don’t want to say that it happens in all kinds of households. And we still live in a society where we will let a convicted felon who was stalking somebody of domestic abuse, still own a gun.
I have a million thoughts as I sit in front of you here today. I have constituents who get labeled, who are on a “do not fly” list and may not be right. I do not want a terrorist to have access to a gun. How can we protect someone’s civil liberties if you won’t come to the table and have the discussion about how you keep us safe?!
The point of this discussion is that we’ve got to stop going to our corners. We’ve gotta stop spouting talking points. But we’ve got to come and figure out how we’re going to make this nation safer. How we’re not going to accept the violence that we’re seeing every day. How we’re not going to let people have access to guns that shouldn’t have access to guns. And we’re not going to do it until we start to change the dialogue, until we come to the table and we have the discussion.
So we’re here on this floor tonight to say, “Enough. Is. Enough.”
I’ve been talking about what I grew up with for many years. It took Newtown. I went and I wrote an op-ed. People knew I didn’t like guns. I probably said, as a child, some really stupid things (although many of you would probably agree with me on what I said.) But I know now we can’t stay silent any longer. We have to do something. I’ve never seen us more united than we are today.
I love my husband with my whole heart and soul. He doesn’t know I’m standing here right now. And I love my Republican friends. I have many. I love you all. Can’t you come to the table? Can’t we have a discussion? Can’t we say enough is enough? Can’t we have a vote?
Democrats vow to continue the protest until at least the 24-hour mark and then to resume when Congress is again in session on July 5th. This is, perhaps, the most powerful stand ever taken by Democrats to further the cause of sensible, rational gun control. Like the rest of us, they have come to the conclusion that the time has come and enough is, indeed, enough.