Politics

‘Day of Action’ on Gun Violence

Rallies across the nation call for Congress to act

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings speaks Wednesday during a rally in Baltimore calling for action on gun safety measures. Also seen, from right, Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Chris Van Hollen, both of Maryland. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BY JEREMY SILK SMITH

When Rep. Elijah E. Cummings saw two young black men in wheelchairs, he wanted to know more.

“Was it a disease, what happened?” he asked.

Both said they’d been shot. And both said they were involved in robberies.

Cummings recounted the conversation at a “Day of Action for Gun Violence Prevention” on the steps of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, at some point we have to say ‘enough is enough,’” Cummings said. “We really do.“ 

Democrats across the country on Wednesday held dozens of similar events to show that their sit-in on the house floor last week was just the beginning of their amplified call for the House to vote on gun control measures.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.,  and the National Rifle Association were criticized at the Baltimore event for opposing legislative efforts to keep guns away from terrorists and tighten background checks.

The revived Democratic push for new gun laws was propelled by the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando. But those at the rally also emphasized daily gun violence that tears up America’s urban landscape. Baltimore, for instance, experienced a startling surge in violence last year that ended with a city record 344 homicides. Most gun victims were young black men.

“Guns don’t die, people die,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, who attended the event with fellow Maryland Democrats Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger.

Van Hollen told Roll Call that Democrats plan to stick to a ‘no business as usual’ approach “until we get a vote on the floor.”

“We will have to decide what the best strategy for accomplishing that will be,” he said. 

[9 Years of Mass Shootings: How Did Congress Respond?]

The House Democrats were joined by Baltimore’s police commissioner, Kevin Davis; the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen; and members of the advocacy group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

Kate Ranta, a domestic violence victim who was shot by her husband, also pushed for stronger gun control. 

Ranta left her husband in 2012, after she said he became abusive. Even though she obtained a temporary restraining order that was supposed to keep him away from her, Ranta’s husband stalked her and eventually shot her and her father, who also survived.

“My hand exploded in front of my face,” Ranta said. Another bullet entered her left breast, just missing her heart. 

Ranta’s son, who was four at the time, witnessed this shooting. He was at the press conference holding a Star Wars “Boba Fett” action figure. 

Wen has witnessed the aftermath of gun violence firsthand. She worked for seven years as an ER doctor, and still sees patients.

Gun violence, she said, is a public health issue.

“As a doctor, I know that violence is a health issue. I have seen my patients die from gun violence. I’ve seen little kids die from shootings. I’ve seen people of all ages, hundreds of them, die because of guns, so I know that violence is a health issue,” she told Roll Call.

Wen said that gun violence is much like any other public health crisis: it can spread from person to person and has a cause that can be treated. 

And to better understand gun violence as a public health issue, Wen said the CDC should do more research into the best methods for prevention and treatment. 

“To allow federal funding to be used for this means that we can understand gun violence as the life and death issue that it actually is,” Wen said. “That will allow us to find preventive measures to ultimately stop this senseless killing that is affecting tens of thousands of our citizens every year.” 

Van Hollen said the Democrats are focusing on getting votes on the “no-fly, no-buy” bill that wold restrict gun purchase by suspected terrorists,   and on universal criminal background checks. 

“We are hoping that they [Republicans] will listen to the will of the American people,” Van Hollen said. “I think it’s the public that is clamoring for a vote and we are asking them to join the public in this.” 

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