On Wednesday, a group of Democratic lawmakers held the floor of the House of Representatives in a dramatic and boisterous sit-in, demanding that GOP leadership hold a vote on what's become the biggest item on the Democratic Party's legislative agenda right now: barring people on terrorism watch-list from buying guns. And while the C-SPAN cameras in the House chamber didn't capture it, there was one moment from the Democratic gun control sit-in that you really ought to see.
It was brought to the floor by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee and a representative from Florida's 23rd congressional district. Wasserman Schultz has been a controversial and besieged political figure in recent months, owing to the long and divisive primary race the Democrats just wrapped up. But on Wednesday she had a clear, simple goal: to read a statement from former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords is the most prominent political survivor of gun violence in the United States, having survived an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011 that left her with a gunshot wound to the head and facing years of physical rehabilitation. Giffords is a longtime friend of Wasserman Schultz, and when she left her seat in January 2012, it was the Florida congresswoman who read her letter of resignation. Here's Wasserman Schultz, sharing Giffords' letter with the protesting Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday, saying she was "proud to give her voice once again."
Dear members of the House and former colleagues:
There is nowhere I would rather be right now than with you, on the floor of the people's House, representing Southern Arizona, fighting for our country, and working to make our communities safer. But your action is the balm for my regret, and it is the inspiration for my continued commitment.
Fighting gun violence takes great courage. I've seen great courage when my life was on the line. I see great courage in many of you right now.
Americans are grappling with a gun violence crisis. It is a crisis that tears apart the lives of so many Americans and touches every community. It is both public and private, in our homes and on our streets. At work, at church, at the movies, at a dance club, at school, and at school again, at a Congress on Your Corner.
The victims are young and old, but always with so much life ahead of them. They are white and black, Latino and Asian, and Native American. They are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight. They are Christian and Muslim, Jewish and Sikh. They are veterans and government workers and union members. They are rich and poor. They die by murder, they die by suicide, and they die by negligence. Often, they don't die, but they carry the scars, and their lives change forever.
If gun violence affects all of us Americans, then the solution is not up to just some of us. We are all responsible for our safety today, and for the country we pass on to our children tomorrow. It's what makes us a country. Where our country has already come together, behind the simple proposition that we ought to have laws that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, so must our Congress. And they should not waste another minute.
We must not accept the world that will be the product of inaction in Washington. We can do better. Some states have already made progress. They show us that when we put aside our incidental or momentary differences and stand shoulder to shoulder, we have enormous power.
It's been said that hope was forged of two powerful ingredients: anger at how things are, and the courage to change them. We will not be driven backwards to live in isolation from one another, and in fear of violence.
Thanks to you and millions of Americans who share our values of pluralism, liberty, and responsibility, we will stand strong and work toward a safer nation for all of us.
Speaking is difficult for me. But I haven't been silenced. And neither should the American people. Their Representatives must vote to prevent gun violence.
Wasserman Schultz ended Giffords' letter with obvious emotion, tearing up as she read the "speaking is difficult for me" part. She then followed up the letter with her own conclusion: "I am so proud of our friend today, I am so proud to stand with all of you. And we will be here, and sit-in, and stand strong, until we can make sure there are no more Gabbys, no more Orlando, no more Aurora, no more victims! Thank you so much."