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Tensions flare over gun violence after House Democrat calls Republicans 'cowards' as they walk by

The exchange between Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie was captured on video just outside the House chamber.

A heated debate erupted on Capitol Hill when Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a former middle school principal, yelled at his GOP colleagues Wednesday and repeatedly called them “cowards” for not supporting stricter gun measures in the wake of the Nashville school shooting.

The exchange between Bowman, D-N.Y., and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., occurred just outside the House chamber and was widely circulated on social media after several journalists posted video of it.

Bowman, a former principal at Cornerstone Academy for Social Action in the Bronx, can be heard yelling: “They’re all cowards! They won’t do anything to save the lives of our children at all!”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks about gun violence off House floor at the U.S. Capitol, on March 29, 2023.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks about gun violence off the House floor at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.NBC News

He continued: “Pressure them, force them to respond to the question: Why the hell won’t you do anything to save America’s children? Let them explain that all the way up to Election Day on 2024.”

Several lawmakers walk by Bowman without engaging, before Massie stops in front of him and says there has never been a shooting at a school where teachers were allowed to carry guns.

“More guns leads to more death,” Bowman responds. “Look at the data. You’re not looking at any data.”

Massie, who in 2021 tweeted a holiday photo with family members holding guns and text asking Santa to “please bring ammo,” then asks Bowman whether he would co-sponsor legislation he introduced last year to repeal a federal ban on guns in school zones. Massie has pointed to data from a controversial gun researcher to argue that such bans are ineffective.

At one point in Wednesday's exchange, Massie can be heard telling Bowman to “calm down.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks about gun violence to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., from left, at the U.S. Capitol, on Wednesday.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., speaks about gun violence to Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., from left, at the U.S. Capitol, on Wednesday.NBC News

“Calm down? Children are dying," Bowman responded. "Nine-year-old children. The solution is not arming teachers."

Six people, including three children, were killed at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday. Three 9-year-old students, a custodian, a substitute teacher and the head of school were killed.

Police said the suspect shot through the locked doors of The Covenant School and was later killed in a confrontation with officers.

Congress has not advanced any new gun bills since the shooting, and Republicans have largely opposed any Democratic-backed measures to address gun violence.

A spokesperson said in an email that Massie had “accepted the challenge” from Bowman and explained the data he has used to argue for a repeal of gun-free school zones.

"When confronted with the facts, Mr. Bowman tried to shout Rep. Massie down," the spokesperson said.

Bowman's office declined to comment. In a tweet posted after the exchange, Bowman posted the video and used an expletive to say Republicans will do nothing to address gun violence.

"We can't calm down," he said. "People are dying everyday while we wait."