One day after the U.S. House approved legislation allowing concealed carry of firearms across state lines, gun control advocates — including an LGBT group — took to Capitol Hill to decry the move and to “honor with action” the lives of Americans lost to ongoing gun violence.
Representing an LGBT voice at the news conference Thursday was Taylor Houston, communications director for the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.
Houston recalled the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was once the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, but things have changed with the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which this year surpassed the death toll in Orlando, as well as other incidents.
“America is the only developed country in this entire world that faces this public health crisis,” Houston said. “We’re supposed to be leading the world when it comes to the quality of life that we ensure our citizens.”
Houston said the United States has experienced 1,500 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 and 142 of them have been school shootings.
“So we’re fighting here with Pride Fund, we’re fighting with gun safety measures everyday with everything that we have,” Houston said. “We’re doing it for the 20 children that were gunned down an six staffers in the room of Sandy Hook, we’re doing it for the Pulse victims and 58 Las Vegas and the other 33,000 Americans who will lose their lives this year.”
During a somber portion of the news conference, family and friends of the victims of gun violence stood up to the podium one by one to name the victim they knew and called on Congress to “honor with action” their memory.
Among them were parents who lost their daughter at the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., individuals who lost loved to suicide by gun death, a parent whose daughter was shot in the heart in a mass shooting, parents whose daughter who shot several times during a 2010 home invasion in Portland, Maine, a pastor whose mother was shot and killed in front her other daughters and whose niece was lost to gun violence, and a mother who lost her son to gun violence while he out celebrating graduation from paramedic school.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who has made gun safety a signature issue, the stories were an “impossible act to follow,” but took the opportunity to lament legislative inaction and accused Congress of letting the violence happen.
“Congress has unfortunately become complicit in these murders because our silence has started to look like an endorsement,” Murphy said. “People notice when the leaders of this country do nothing in the face of slaughter, after slaughter, after slaughter.”
But Murphy cited a number of factors which he said indicate things are changing, such as Democratic victories on Election Day 2017 in Virginia after voters cited gun violence as their No. 2 reason for going to the polls.
On Tuesday, the House passed legislation, 231-198, that would allow people with permits for carrying concealed handguns to do so in other states that allow concealed weapons. The interstate concealed carry would require an individual to carry a valid government-issued photo ID and be lawfully licensed to possess a concealed handgun.
The package also contained a measure that would ensure authorities report criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, penalizing agencies that don’t report them to the FBI.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) spoke angrily about the passage of the House bill, saying it amounts lawmakers having “dishonored with action” the victims of gun violence.
“The House leadership chose to bring up a bill which we might as well rename ‘The Guns Anywhere, Anytime by Anyone,'” Esty said. “It is wrong, and the American people need to stand up.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asserted the House-passed legislation “will not pass the United States Senate” and anticipated separation of the bill into parts — one expanding checks, one for concealed carry — because that was the “good faith” agreement with Senate leadership and Republican.
“That’s sort of the bare minimum,” Blumenthal said. “It’s barely progress. What we need to extend those background checks to all purchases, to make sure we ban assault weapons, to ban high capacity magazines.”
Blumenthal added “we will prevail” because of gun control advocates “are breaking the vice-like grip of the NRA and the gun lobby.”
Other lawmakers who spoke were Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Brent Thompson (D-Calif.). Joining them were from Po Murray, chair of Newtown Action Alliance; Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Victoria Coy, national director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence; and Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs for Giffords.
The news conference took place hours before another shooting in Aztec High School in New Mexico that left two students and the suspect dead.