Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch turn up heat on Republicans over gun issues
By Anthony Man
Continuing an election-year attempt to achieve something constructive in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre, Democrats from South Florida pleaded, reasoned — and demanded — Tuesday that Republicans who control Congress consider legislation to slow, and in some cases stop, certain firearm sales.
The Democrats were passionate in their calls and scathing in their assessments of the Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the nation has seen too many mass shootings.
"We are sick and tired of moments of silence, of bowing our heads, and of clucking our tongues and shaking our heads. We're sick and tired of the carnage," Wasserman Schultz said. "We have suffered this hurt as a nation again and again and again and again and again. We cannot stand idly by while gun violence ravages families and communities all across this country."
To Congress, where she's served since 2005, Wasserman Schultz said: "Do your damn job. Do your damn job."
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, said the moments of silence that inevitably follow mass shootings are "too often followed by deafening silence" rather than action.
"For too long the gun lobby has gotten everything that it wanted," he said. "We have failed to stop gun violence for too long. The American people should not have to accept these horrible acts of violence as normal."
Democrats have been talking about gun violence since the June 12 massacre of 49 people and the wounding of many more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Just before Congress began its 10-day Fourth of July recess, Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to demand votes on gun control legislation. House leaders responded by starting the break early.
Dozens of Democrats around the country staged events to draw attention to the issue last week, including U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, another Broward-Palm Beach County Democrat, who held an local sit in at West Palm Beach City Hall.
On Tuesday, the Democrats said they weren't motivated by politics. State Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said "no one's trying to politically grandstand."
Many of the Democrats frequently criticized Republicans.
Wasserman Schultz repeatedly accused House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., of "hiding behind the skirts" of the National Rifle Association. And, she said, "I've never been more disgusted or appalled by House Republicans."
Democrats want votes on legislation to:
• Prevent people on the no-fly watch list because they're potential terrorists from buying firearms. The assembled politicians couldn't cite specific incidents that would have been prevented by such a provision. They cast it as a common sense move.
• Require background checks for all gun sales. Currently, some sales — between individuals, at gun shows and on the internet — are exempt from background checks.
The Associated Press reported that Ryan said the Democratic proposals are unconstitutional; Democrats disagree. Ryan stopped short of saying he'd block votes on the bills but said Republicans had no intention of rewarding Democrats for their sit-in.
Both of the Democrats' ideas are popular. A June 17 Public Policy Polling survey reported that 93 percent of Florida voters supported requiring a criminal background check to buy a firearm. And 83 percent supported barring those on the terrorism watch list from buying a gun.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, one of the Democrats at Tuesday's news conference at Hollywood International Airport, said law enforcement is unified in a desire for congressional action.
"Congress, whatever you're doing, it's failing. People are coming onto school campuses with guns. Our children are armed with pencils and book bags. You need to so something different. Children are dying all over this country," he said.
The call for action was echoed by Mayor Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines, who pulled out and held up his permit allowing him to carry a concealed weapon; Kathryn Reeve of Plantation, representing Everytown for Gun Safety; and Megan Hobson, who was severely wounded but survived a drive-by shooting in Miami Gardens in 2012.
"The Congress is broken," said Ortis, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "This country needs to have some sanity. I'm fed up."
Ryan has said he would allow a vote on gun legislation. Wasserman Schultz said the Republican measure would do nothing to solve the problems they want to go after and is merely so the Republicans can be "at least pretending to do something." Deutch said it would could undermine investigations of potential terrorists by effectively alerting them that they're suspected terrorists.
In a statement Tuesday, Ryan said the proposed Homeland Safety and Security Act would notify law enforcement if a known or suspected terrorist attempts to buy explosives or firearms. A sale could be delayed for up to three business days or denied if there is probable cause to believe the person poses a risk.
"This will help keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists while protecting Second Amendment rights and preserving due process," Ryan said.