Why This Congressman Walked Out On A Moment Of Silence For Texas Church Victims

by Lauren Holter
Kris Connor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives held a moment of silence Monday for victims of Sunday's mass shooting in rural Texas, but Rep. Ted Lieu walked out. In a video posted to Facebook Monday night, the California Democrat explained that he won't be silent in the aftermath of such a deadly tragedy. "I can’t do this again. I’ve been to too many moments of silences," he said. "In just my short period in Congress three of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. I will not be silent."

Lieu said he was heartbroken to hear that at least 26 people died and 20 more were wounded over the weekend in Sutherland Springs, Texas. However, while he assured viewers that he respects his colleagues' right to hold moments of silence, he wants Congress to do more. Specifically, he wants tougher gun laws passed — and quickly.

"I urge us to pass reasonable gun safety legislation, including a universal background check law supported by 80 percent of Americans, a ban on assault rifles, and a ban on bump stocks," he says in the video. "We need to do that. We cannot be silent. We need to act now."

As Lieu described, national support for gun control hit an all-time high last month, following a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 60 percent of Americans want to see stronger gun laws.

Sunday's shooting at a First Baptist Church was the deadliest in Texas' recent history, and the tragedy in Las Vegas was the deadliest in the nation's. The two were just 35 days apart, making it clear that mass shooting are becoming more frequent and more lethal in the U.S.

This escalation moved Lieu to say he can't sit through another moment of silence for shooting victims, and he's pushing back on the GOP's continued inaction surrounding gun control.

After initially tweeting that his "thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families affected by the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs," Lieu corrected his statement in another tweet. "I pray for the victims of TX. Also, screw the NRA & can you help Dems take back the House."

Republican in Congress were heavily criticized for offering "thoughts and prayers" after the Las Vegas and Texas attacks, while failing to take any tangible action to decrease access to firearms. House Speaker Paul Ryan defending his response on Monday, telling Fox News: "Prayer works."

Similarly, President Trump fired back at those calling for gun reform in addition to prayers. He tweeted Monday: "Mocking good hard working & God fearing Americans for praying probably isn't the best strategy." However, critics were calling out members of Congress specifically, not average Americans seeking comfort through prayer.

Many conservative politicians praying after every mass shooting have financial ties to the NRA, making their condolences seem empty to those who want to see more gun control legislation in place. According to Federal Election Commission data analyzed by OpenSecrets, Ryan accepted $5,950 from the NRA during the 2016 election. And the pro-gun organization spent more than $30.3 million supporting President Trump in 2016.

Despite the president's deflection, Lieu joined those criticizing the GOP, telling Sen. Ted Cruz on Twitter: "When lots of people die in a mass shooting, we try to prevent it from happening again. That's called doing our job."

Following the devastating Las Vegas shooting last month, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate aimed at prohibiting the sale of bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic rifles to fire quickly. However, neither has moved forward in the past month.

With at least 26 more people dead from a mass shooting, Lieu wants to see real action taken to protect Americans.