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The battle over gun control legislation continued to rage on Wednesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that Democrats are trying to violate the Second Amendment, while lawmakers on the left skewered the GOP for bending to the gun lobby.
“We are not going to actually pass legislation that infringes upon a person’s constitutional rights,” said Ryan at a news conference. Since last month’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Democrats have been advocating two proposals that include expanding background checks and banning gun sales to those on terrorism no-fly lists.
Ryan said the House will still vote on a separate, larger anti-terrorism package that includes legislation aimed at preventing suspected terrorists from getting their hands on firearms. It's likely to go nowhere, as a similar measure has already been knocked down in the Senate. Under the proposed GOP legislation, the government can ban gun sales to suspected terrorists but only if they can prove within 72 hours that the person on the watch or no-fly list has links to terrorism — a provision Democrats say is impossible.
Ryan has suggested the House will not vote on the Democrats’ proposals at all. What remains to be seen is whether Democrats will protest as they did last month, staging a dramatic sit-in that lasted more than 24 hours on the chamber floor as they demanded action on gun control.
At an event calling for votes on meaningful gun violence prevention on the steps of the nation’s Capitol, civil rights leader and Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who led last month’s sit in, said on Wednesday, “We’regoing to have some more action. We don’t know what form it’s going to take but stay tuned. Stay tuned, be restless, stay with us, hang in there.”
The Georgia lawmaker was flanked by individuals affected by gun violence in addition to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.
“All of us know that the bills the Republicans are talking about bringing to the floor this week don’t cut it. It’s endorsed by the NRA and would make America less safe, not more safe,” said Hoyer. He later added, “A moment of silence is not enough. Action is required.”
Ryan — who is also facing heat from the far right of his party on the anti-terrorism package — did not say when the vote would take place, only saying “We’re going to do it when we’re ready, and we’re going to do it in a good amount of time.”
Meanwhile, victims of gun violence said they would not give up their fight. Christian Heyne, whose mother was shot and killed in a 2005 shooting in Thousand Oaks, Calif., told NBC News, “I don’t know when he’s going to bring something forward. But we are not going away, survivors aren’t going away and neither are American people who support these common sense measures.”
Heyne was one of eight protesters affected by gun violence who staged a sit-in of their own at the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday. “Americans are fed up. They’ve finally had enough,” he added.