House Democrats on Tuesday renewed their call to take up legislation aimed at gun control calling the Republican leadership “deer in the headlights” when it comes to the issue.
The comments came the morning after a Democratic uproar following a moment of silence on the House floor Monday where legislators protested stalled gun control bills after the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 club goers dead and 53 wounded.
Democrats are urging GOP leadership to allow debate on bills aimed at prohibiting people on the no-fly list from buying weapons. They stopped short of saying the legislation would apply to anyone who has ever been on a no-fly list after it was revealed the Orlando shooter had not been on the list at the time of the shooting.
Republicans, meanwhile, announced that they would move to repackage nine counterterrorism bills already passed into a single measure that can advance to the Senate.
On the Democratic side, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said Tuesday that appropriations bills could serve as vehicles for pushing measures to reduce gun violence, despite the restrictions that Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin has placed on amendments to spending bills.
In addition to the terror watch legislation, Democrats could push to enhance background checks, close loopholes and address the sale of automatic weapons.
“In my own personal opinion, these weapons only have one purpose and that is to kill a lot of people quickly and that’s exactly what happened in Orlando,” Hoyer said.
Rhode Island Democratic Rep. David Cicilline also urged the House to debate a measure that would prevent someone who has been convicted of a hate crime from purchasing a weapons.
New York Rep. Joseph Crowley, the Democratic caucus vice chairman, defended Monday's interruption of the moment of silence.
“These 49 victims join a long list of victims and families that are hurting because their Congress will stand for a moment of silence but do absolutely nothing — don’t even talk about it, don’t even bring it up,” Crowley said. “Call a select committee on umpteen other things but not on gun violence in America. Nothing. Nada. Zip.”
Crowley joined Democrats in saying there are enough votes to pass the measures but that House Republican leadership is blocking efforts to bring the bills to the floor despite numerous mass shooting events.
“They stand there like deer in the headlights,” Crowley said.
House Democrats cannot offer gun amendments to the fiscal 2017 Defense spending bill (HR 5293) that the chamber will begin debating on Tuesday, because the window to offer amendments closed at 10 a.m. on Monday.
They could attempt to add amendments on the $56 billion Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, which was approved by the full committee on May 24, and the $41.1 billion Homeland Security bill, which is scheduled for subcommittee markup this week.
Hoyer cautioned that any proposals Democrats may offer would not change the laws that determine who can purchase weapons for self-defense within their homes or for target practice, or hunting.
“What we are suggesting," he said, "is that we make sure that the people who have guns are not posing a danger to those who go to a nightclub; those who go to church in Charleston; those who go to a movie theater in Aurora; small children who go to school in Newtown, Connecticut.; those who go to their workplace in San Bernardino; those who go to a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; to those who go to a recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee; those university students who went to school at Virginia Tech; or those who serve in our military on a military base.”