In the wake of the tragic slayings in Orlando last weekend, gun-control unexpectedly dominated Congress this week.
For Democrats the slaughter of 49 people at the Orlando LGBT club was the last straw and they’re calling for overhauling the nation’s lax gun laws. On Monday, the House dedicated a moment of silence to the victims, and Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes and a few other Democrats walked out of the chamber.
“In that moment I realized was just a, you know, a ritual of impotence and a ritual that, in as much as it involved silence is perfectly reflective of the gross negligence that the Congress has shown in the face of the massacre of the American people.”
But Wyoming lawmakers argue Democrats are trying to politicize the tragedy by making it about guns, and not terrorism. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said the shooter pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and that’s where the debate should be.
“ISIS is what instigates this, ISIS is what eggs it on and as long as ISIS continues to not be dealt with effectively, ISIS continues to inspire these lone wolfs, we have to deal with the standpoint of terrorism and that's where the discussion needs to be headed."
Barrasso, like presumed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, blames the president for the violence on U.S. soil.
“Those lone wolfs who want to be accosted with a winner, are more likely in my opinion then become energized. And as long as the president fails to address ISIS and I think in an effective way, he's been very ineffective, that that's going to continue to inspire additional terrorists’ activities.”
He added that no community is safe until ISIS is beat back.
“What we know from the FBI is that there are investigations going on in all 50 states on people who have been self-radicalized and that’s the huge challenge to find out who is self-radicalized and why?”
But Democrats see it differently. They argue lone wolf terrorists are made more dangerous by the nation’s gun laws. That’s why Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy took to the Senate floor for a fifteen-hour filibuster until an agreement was reached to vote on gun control measures.
While Democrats want to ban people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns, they also want stronger background checks. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is also pushing her measure to reinstate the assault weapons ban.
“If that had still been in place it would have made purchase of this weapon impossible because this is a new weapon. So it all depends. We’ve got more weapons now than we have people in this country. How many do we need and in whose hands should they be?”
But Republicans, like Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis, say that efforts like that are misguided.
"That's unfortunate, I think part of the problem here is reacting to Orlando, with legislation that is not well thought out and perhaps if we would take the time to visit with each other about this, in a setting that's not politicized such as in reaction to legislation that has been hastily drawn, we might be able to come with something that really could be workable.”
Lummis and other Republicans argue they want to ban potential terrorists from getting weapons, but they say the terror watch list is currently riddled with errors and they don’t believe people wrongly put on the list are given due process is challenging it. Lummis is hoping a deal can be reached to keep guns out of domestic terrorist’s hands.
“The dialogue I think is important, I think reacting too hastily drawn legislation is only going to cause us to go back to our respective corners and not have the kind of thoughtful, reflective dialogue that could produce bipartisan legislation.”
Early next week the U.S. Senate will vote on a series of gun-related items, but they’re all expected to fail.