In the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in US history, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, called for a “moment of silence” Monday to commemorate the lives of the victims of Sunday’s massacre. However, less than 48 hours after an attacker—armed with a handgun and a semi-automatic weapon—opened fired on a crowd in a popular gay club in Orlando killing 50 people, Ryan’s prayers fell on frustrated ears as House democrats protested the Republican-led chamber’s failure to even address tighter gun legislation.
The House Democrats’ mounting impatience with Republican attempts to replace action with politicized sentiment was only intensified when Ryan, immediately following the moment of silence, introduced an unrelated bill, HR 5312, to the floor for a vote. Assistant democratic leader and representative from South Carolina, Jim Cleburne, raised his hand and inquired about three pieces of gun-control legislation that had been introduced to the House recently, as the one-year anniversary of the Charleston Massacre draws near. The bills in question would, among other things, close the “Charleston loophole” and restrict those on no-fly lists, or those convicted of hate crimes, from purchasing firearms. However, for his actions, Clyburn was deemed “out of order” by Ryan, who proceeded to move toward the vote on the floor. The House Democrats responded to such hypocritical behavior with shouts of protests. Echoing Clyburn, House Democrats began shouting: “where is the bill” and “no leadership.”
Ryan and the House Republican’s failure to consider common sense gun legislation, even in the wake of an American mass shooting epidemic, is indicative of a greater problem facing American politics. Currently, the National Rifle Association (NRA) insures their continued influence in congress through their large scale financial support. In exchange for their contributions, Republicans in both the House and Senate comply with the NRA and block any attempt at more restrictive gun legislation.
The protest that took place in the House on Monday is the result of continued efforts, on behalf of the indebted House republicans, to respond to these horrific events with sentiment instead of action. Ryan’s ineffectual and hypocritical behavior immediately following this latest attack only confirms the fears of many that this continual congressional inaction will do nothing to prevent future atrocities.