The House Floor is No Place for Political Stunts
Posted on June 23, 2016
In the days following the Columbine massacre, Congress went to work to somehow fix gun laws that seemingly allowed two demented young boys to execute dozens of their classmates.
Al Gore, who was then Vice President, stepped in to break a tie in the United States Senate on a modest piece of legislation that promised to do away with the gun show loophole.
Denny Hastert, my boss at the time, was just getting his sea-legs as Speaker of the House, and he wanted to move legislation. He had the support of the National Rifle Association in the past, so moving on any gun legislation was not an easy decision for him.
But Columbine had shocked the American people and he felt it was important to make some progress on the issue.
As his spokesman, I was all for moving gun legislation. I am not a gun owner and I didn’t have any great love for some of the hardball tactics of the gun lobby. Others in the leadership, especially Tom DeLay, the hard-charging whip, didn’t share the Speaker’s views, but he supported a process that allowed the legislative process to continue.
At the end of the day, the modest gun control legislative failed because Congressional Democrats voted against it. They thought it was too modest, and they would rather have the political issue than to allow the process to move forward.
It proved to be a stinging defeat for the Speaker, but also a learning experience for me.
We have since had several other massacres of innocent people. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Charleston. Orlando. All of these done by people who had a screw loose. They came from different religious outlooks, different nationalities, different colors. But they all shared the same basic nihilistic view of creation. They wanted to end human life.
It’s pretty unlikely that any gun laws that would have passed in the days following Columbine would have had any real impact on any of those massacres. Each killer purchased their firearms legally, and it is doubtful that any law that had any realistic chance of being passed by Congress would have somehow stopped these sick boys from getting guns and doing their terrible deeds.
Some Democrats believe that we should get rid of all guns in America. They did that in Australia, and it seems to have worked to cut down on gun violence in the land down under. But we don’t live in Australia. We live in America and we have a much more vibrant history of gun ownership than they do down there.
Most Congressional Democrats don’t believe we should get rid of all guns and they don’t believe that because they want to keep their jobs in Congress. So they play at the edges of the debate, promoting ideas like waiting periods and ending gun-show loopholes and limiting the ability of people to purchase assault-weapons or the latest idea of keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists.
I am all for keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. If fully implemented, these government regulations would probably hit Muslim-Americans the hardest, because they are the ones who are put on watch lists. I wonder how Democrats would vote on an amendment that would explicitly ban Muslims from buying guns, because that could be the end result of some of these proposals.
The fact is that most of this is political theater. Most of it won’t solve the problem of young, disturbed men from killing innocent people for no apparent reason.
Most gun violence doesn’t make the news because most of it is the routine murder that occurs on the streets of America’s biggest cities.
If we are going to ban Muslims from getting guns, we should probably also round up all the gang-bangers who blast away at each other on a daily basis and take their guns away too. Of course, that would require that community leaders cooperate with law enforcement, which doesn’t seem very likely these days.
When I see Democrats sitting on the floor, protesting to make the House vote on legislation has already been voted down in the Senate, it makes my blood boil. This is a political stunt. It won’t solve any real problems that face America. It’s really no different than when a Congressman put a paper-bag over his head to show his disgust with the institution. But the floor of the House of Representatives shouldn’t be used in such a crass manner.
It was on the floor of the House where the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. It was on the floor of the House floor where Members gathered to hear Franklin Roosevelt declare war against the Empire of Japan after Pearl Harbor. It was on the floor of the House where the Missouri Compromise was reached, where Social Security was created, where Ike’s highway bill was funded.
The floor of the House is not a prop for nakedly partisan politically-inspired protest.
It’s disrespectful to our nation’s history. And it won’t move the country forward.