Democrats have been protesting Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House to try and force a vote on legislation that would strengthen guns laws. Amendments offered include requiring background checks for those who want to purchase guns and restricting those on terrorist watch lists from buying guns and explosives.
The tactic by Democrats is unprecedented and not widely supported by Republicans, including by west-central Missouri Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.
“It’s frustrating because we are debating right now the financial services appropriations bill, which is very important to Americans that we do their work and that we fund such important programs,” said Hartzler.
Republican Missouri Congressman Jason Smith says the protesting by Democrats is ridiculous.
“Absolutely no one wants to allow a terrorist to have access to a gun or any weapon,” says Smith. “What these liberal members of Congress are trying to do right now is politicize a very horrible tragedy in order to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.”
East-central Democratic Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay doesn’t know if lawmakers can find a compromise. He says the last time Congress passed meaningful gun legislation was in the 1990s.
“If you don’t bring the issue up, how do we get to middle ground?” asked Clay. “If you don’t want to discuss it, if you are so afraid of the NRA and the gun lobby, that you don’t even want to bring the issue up, then we will never get to a solution.”
He says the Orlando nightclub massacre was the culmination of recent years of carnage.
“We have gotten to the point where we say enough is enough. It’s time to take on this issue and not sweep it under the rug,” said Clay.
Democratic Missouri Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver says the proposed legislation is not about eliminating gun rights for everyone. He says he has family members who have guns and it would be hypocritical of him to try and take people’s gun rights away. Cleaver also says second amendment rights can’t be eliminated.
“A number of individuals have been trying desperately to get Congress to approve legislation that would prohibit individuals on the terror watch list from being able to purchase guns,” said Cleaver.
Cleaver says there was no concerted effort to protest on the floor and might have been less effective if it would have been an organized move.
This isn’t the first recent effort by lawmakers to take a stand on gun legislation. Last week, Senate Democrats and some Republicans filibustered for 15 hours demanding stronger gun restrictions.