At first, it looked like the same old story. A crazy person with a gun walks into a crowded, public place. Unleashes mayhem and tragedy. Mass casualties. The nation mourns, hopes and prays.
Congress does nothing.
But this time it was different. This time, the nation cares too much. This time, everybody is watching.
It began with a filibuster. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who once represented a district in Connecticut not far from Sandy Hook, stood on the house floor last Wednesday, June 16, for 15 hours to urge Congress to vote on two gun control measures. He was joined by more than two dozen of his fellow Democratic representatives.
His bill included measures that appeared to be common sense — ban anyone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from being able to purchase guns; and close the “gun show loophole,” which would mandate background checks on private gun sales, both of which have the support of some 90 percent of Americans.
As Murphy stated during his marathon speech, one restriction does not work without the other.
Five days later, Murphy’s bill, along with one other Democratic proposal and two Republican bills tackling similar issues, were all voted down.
But again, the tide was changing. It was palpable. I even texted a friend later that day — “it’s only the beginning.” But even I didn’t know what was coming next.
It culminated yesterday when members of the House Democratic Caucus staged an unprecedented sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives. It began at 11:30 a.m. EST, and lasted until about 3 a.m. after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan abruptly adjourned the session despite Democratic protests.
A sit-in. As in, the thing we read about in history textbooks in middle school but didn’t know they still existed. Seeing it happen before my eyes was as surreal as if I saw a real-life dinosaur. The Democrats might as well have played the theme from Jurassic Park for dramatic effect while they sat .
Technically, what happened was illegal. If the House is not in session — which it wasn’t since Republicans left — then the proceedings are not supposed to be televised. But Democrats filmed their protest on the social media site Periscope, and CSPAN picked up the live feed.
That’s right folks, for one night CSPAN was the network to watch. I care about politics and I still couldn’t even tell you what channel it is. I still can’t, even though I put it on last night.
The sit-in was led by civil rights hero John Lewis. Democratic leaders gave interviews throughout the day. Many held signs in protest, including photos of the victims of the Orlando shooting. Some sang. Many supporters flocked outside Capitol Hill as a sign of solidarity.
And on Twitter, #NoBillNoBreak was trending nationwide. It was truly a historic occasion.
This is powerful stuff, and I just hope the momentum continues.
Furthermore, we have a watershed election cycle rapidly approaching, and now’s the time when we, the people, have the ability to replace those who did nothing.
I’m the laziest person in the world. My ideal day is one where I sit on a couch and do nothing. I’m the biggest advocate of doing nothing.
But when it comes to passing common sense gun control laws and saving American lives, doing nothing is absolutely not an option.
This time it’s different.