Monday the debate over how to stop attacks like the terror massacre in Orlando erupted on the House floor as Democratic lawmakers loudly criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other GOP leaders for taking no action on the nation’s gun laws.
The disruption underscored the political divide in the wake of the attack, with many Democrats looking to tighten gun laws in response and Republicans looking to crack down on the strain of radical Islam that seemingly motivated the shooter.
The flare-up on the floor erupted when Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., attempted to ask Ryan when bills curbing gun use would be considered after the House paused for 16 seconds to honor those killed in the terror attack.
Clyburn was going to note that Friday is the one-year anniversary of the Charleston, S.C. mass shooting. Before Clyburn could finish, Ryan ruled his question out of order and directed the House to move to the next vote.
Some protested by leaving the House floor during a moment of silence honoring the victims, while other Democrats yelled “Where’s the bill?” and “No leadership!”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Democrats have “had enough” of moments of silence after mass shootings when Congress does not act to tighten gun laws.
A handful of Democrats left the House floor during the moment of silence, including Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes. Himes said earlier Monday in an interview that he’s done with the moments of silence typically held on the House floor after mass shootings, calling them “obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence.” His district is close to Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in 2012.
Leaving the House chamber, Ryan, R-Wis., declined to comment on the exchange.
But he had earlier issued a statement stressing that a “hateful ideology” – not guns – is to blame.
“As we heal, we need to be clear-eyed about who did this,” Ryan said. “We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists. Theirs is a repressive, hateful ideology that respects no borders. It is a threat to our people at home and abroad. Our security depends on our refusal to back down in the face of terror. We never will.”
Lawmakers and presidential candidates have pointed to a range of culprits in responding to the attack. Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has renewed his concerns about Muslim immigration, while presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton renewed her concerns about the proliferation of assault weapons and wants to ban them. President Obama has made a fresh argument for gun control in the wake of the shooting, but has also called it an act of terror and an act of hate – as the attack targeted a gay nightclub.
Obama has not used the phrase “radical Islam,” though Clinton has since described that as a factor.
Moments of silence in the House have a history of prompting outbursts on the floor. When a moment was held to honor victims of a deadly shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, in December, several Democrats criticized it.
“We need to stand up, speak up, and take actions rather than another moment of silence,” said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., in a House floor speech at the time. “It is deafening, and it is killing us.”