The Congressional Black Caucus issued a searing plea to Congress Friday, asking for help curbing the gun violence epidemic in this country. The plea came on the heels of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were both shot and killed by police for minor infractions, and then Thursday night’s deadly shooting of five Dallas police officers during a protest of those police killings.
Black lawmakers described the Dallas shooter as a “terrorist” and sometimes openly wept for something to be done about police brutality and gun violence, their voices cracking when talking about their own children.
Civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who led a congressional sit-in over gun control in June, said:
“Today we corralled and we feel the pain in the hurt of the people in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas and all across our country but whatever we do, we must do it in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. We have to redeem the soul of America and bring us together to create what doctor Martin Luther King Jr. called “the love community.” We all live in the same house. It doesn’t matter what black or white, Latino, Asian, American or Native American. We are one family living in one house. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. If not, we will perish as fools. We have too many guns, there’s been too much violence and we must act.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat where the killing of Alton Sterling took place, shared his anger for recent events and towards the inaction of Republicans in Congress:
“When we look at this Congress we can do nothing but conclude that they are co-conspirators in the devaluation of the lives of men and women of color. The systematic devaluation from mass incarceration to the lack of investment in communities show that we have little faith or concern about their future.”
Rep. Richmond then called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to engage in an adult conversation about the use of deadly force by police, whether there was a need for AR-15’s or high capacity magazines on the streets, or if it’s good practice to allow people on the terrorist watch list to buy guns.
Many members of the caucus urged new reforms on gun laws, more money for police training, as well as meetings between community leaders and the Justice Department.
Today, Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would begin exploring with the number two House Democrat Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) if there was any common ground to be found on the issue of deadly force by police or gun control.
Rep. McCarthy said:
“I’m not pre-determining what it is, I just think what has gone on in the nation this week — this is a time, not only to pause for the prayers, but it’s a time this country should unite and solve the problems out there, make sure justice is done and so that’s in the mode of what we are doing at this moment.”
Rep. Hoyer said any solution to the nation’s violence problem would have to be a bipartisan agreement. Speaker Ryan separately met with Rep. Richmond after the press conference, but it’s unknown what they discussed.
Ryan said publicly:
“This has been a long week for our country. It’s been a long month for America. We’ve seen terrible, terrible, senseless things. Every member of this body, every Republican and every Democrat wants to see less gun violence. Every member of this body wants a world in which people feel safe regardless of the color of their skin.”
So then do something, Ryan.
The issue of gun violence has taken center stage this election after the mass shooting in Orlando which took the lives of 49 people and left 53 people wounded. The Democrats have vowed there will be no peace in the House until Congress acts on the issue of gun control. So far, Republicans have voted against an amendment to simply allow the Centers for Disease Control to resume studying the issue of gun violence.
But the events in Dallas may change the GOP’s tune. Conservatives often like to promote themselves as supporters of police officers, but their inaction on gun control puts police lives in danger. Allowing dangerous people to obtain weapons through lax laws and background checks, does the police no favors. Not acting on sensible gun legislation puts all of our lives at risk. And in an election year, Republicans should really be rethinking their “leading with inaction” strategy they’ve employed for the last six years.
Watch the Congressional Black Caucus’ plea to Congress:
Watch the full version, here.
Featured Image via C-SPAN (Screen Capture)