Black lawmakers delivered an emotional and sometimes searing plea for gun control Friday in response to the Dallas killings, calling the suspected gunman a “terrorist” and openly weeping at times as they railed against gun violence.
Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who led a sit-in for gun control measures on the House floor just two weeks ago, as well as Rep. Robyn Kelley, wept during the news conference called by the Congressional Black Caucus on Friday. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, accused Republicans of “the devaluation” of minorities by not taking up gun control legislation.
“I would have to say today is the angriest I’ve ever been while addressing the public and the media. And I share the anger of our young kids. When we look at this Congress, we can do nothing but conclude they are co-conspirators in the de-valuation of the lives of men and women of color,” Richmond said Friday.
Members of the caucus — including many involved in the House sit-in seeking gun control — said Friday the answer to the Dallas shootings must be new limits on gun sales, increased money for police training, and meetings between local leaders and Justice Department officials.
“We are continuing our fight to remove guns from the hands of would-be terrorists and criminals and require background checks for those seeking to purchase firearms. We need legislative action now!” said CBC chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield. The morning news conference was delayed after the Capitol was briefly placed on lockdown.
The latest push for new gun control measures was fueled in response to the Orlando nightclub shooting — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — just under a month ago. That effort appeared to gain new energy Friday morning, as the nation woke to the deadliest attack on law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001.
House leaders on both sides of the aisle are beginning to explore whether there’s any common ground to address the growing violence in the country.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told two reporters he is talking with his counterpart, the number two House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland. The two planned to have another conversation on Saturday after they sound out their colleagues on both sides of the aisle about next steps. Separately, House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke with Richmond, who represents part of Baton Rouge, where one of the shootings took place earlier this week.
The number two House GOP Leader was vague about what policy proposals the group could agree on, or whether it would actually draft legislation, but stressed, “whatever we end up doing is going to be bipartisan.”
McCarthy emphasized, “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.”
President Barack Obama, speaking during a trip Poland for the NATO summit, did not explicitly call for new limits on gun sales, but referenced gun violence in his remarks. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately, it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic,” Obama said Friday.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, tweeted a call for voters to remember gun deaths at the ballot box in four months. “7/7 Update In the past 72 hours, 96 people have died + 255 people have been injured due to gun violence in the US. Election day: 123 days,” Newsom tweeted.
Democrats’ dramatic takeover of the U.S. House chambers just two weeks ago appeared to yield some success earlier this week, as House Republicans announced they would vote on a conservative gun-control measure this week. But that vote was delayed indefinitely after conservatives among the House Republicans expressed frustrations in private.
“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,” Ryan said Friday.