Democrats staged a sit-in on the House of Representatives floor today to fight against the GOP's stance on gun control. The sit-in came just days after the GOP blocked two gun control bills proposed by House Democrats that would have expanded background checks and made it more difficult for people on the terror watch list to obtain a gun. The conversations around gun control can be difficult to keep up with, but there was one heartbreaking moment from the sit-in that begged the question of what's more important: guns or people?
The sit-in began around 12:30 p.m. ET and continued for more than four hours. There was a mix of House members and senators who gathered to take a stand (well, a sit) for gun control reform. Even after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history that happened in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, the Senate still blocked numerous gun control bills that would have made significant strides in controlling, to an extent, gun violence in our country. Gun violence has continued to rise since over the years, and in 2015, deaths by firearms became as frequent as deaths by car accident.
The statistics are chilling, but the one heartbreaking question from the Democrats sit-in came from Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly who asked a poignant question.
During the sit-in, Rep. Kelly talked about her experience representing Illinois' 2nd district, which covers the Chicagoland area. Police confiscated 7,000 guns from Chicago in 2015; there were 120 shootings in Chicago in the first 10 days of 2016. So it's safe to say Kelly has seen the terrible effects of gun violence firsthand.
Because of this, Kelly's one question during the sit-in really put gun violence into a new light by focusing on the victims rather than playing into partisan politics:
Just who has to be shot, and how many have to die before we do anything? It's not a colleague, Gabby Gifford [sic]. It's not children in elementary school. It's not people praying in a church. It's not Hadiya Pendleton in a park, Blair Holt on a school bus. Just who is it that has to be shot, or has to die, before we do something about it?
Now, this isn't to say that Kelly was the first politician to focus on the victims when talking about gun violence; rather, her range of victims — children, students, a fellow politician — really put into perspective the reality that anyone can be a victim of gun violence in this country. Kelly, who has maintained an anti-gun platform throughout her career, begged the other Democrats, Republicans, and those of us watching at home, for help on this crippling issue:
This is embarrassing, that's how I feel. I've been here a little over three years, and it's embarrassing that we have not done anything. This is what I ran on, to stop the murder in the United States of America. It doesn't even feel like we're in the United States as we, who people die for us to have the right to vote, don't even get the right to vote in a position that we were elected to. We need your help.
Kelly's question puts a sobering perspective on gun violence as we remember that in the weeks after the worst mass shooting in the U.S. — in which 49 people were gunned down inside an Orlando nightclub — the Senate still can't pass common sense gun reform to prevent these situations from happening again.