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A Welcome Democratic Stand on Guns, But Are These the Bills We're Looking For?


A Welcome Democratic Stand on Guns, But Are These the Bills We're Looking For?

Phyllis Bennis

It was almost midnight when I found myself glued to the live video of scores of Democratic congressmembers then about twelve hours into their historic sit-in. They were occupying the House chamber, jerry-rigging a social media-based broadcast when the Republican leadership shut-down the C-Span cameras, rising one after another to speak with passion, reminding the nation that business as usual is no longer okay. They are proud of themselves and each other, as they should be.


Of course they're not the bills we're looking for. They're the bills we have. And I didn't hear the sitters-in advocating these bills as any kind of solution. What they were demanding was public debate, public recognition of the problems with these bills, and perhaps amendments to improve them. We have to start somewhere, and if these were the bills the House leadership were willing to debate, they would be better than the nothing we have now.

Personally, I don't care if someone is unfairly denied a gun.


When Democrats have a sit-in demanding we get single payer health care, my faith in the party will be restored.


I'm concerned about any arbitrary application of law. You'll be next.


First, it's not the legislators who apply any law. Second, except when someone gets her/is hands on a gun with no purpose but mass murder, and applies that, there's always recourse. I understand the Senate has taken up a revised no-fly-no-buy bill. Third, I'll say again that part of the business of debating a bill is amending it, fixing it, revising it. But if the leadership buries it and silences the minority with its gavel, nothing gets fixed.


The point is the further codification of unconstitutional acts via political opportunism.

If the intent of these Representatives was to resolve these Constitutional issues in debate, why the silence on this issue when the attention is fully on them?

You are essentially arguing that the sit in wasn't about getting the bills passed that they are advocating. The sit in was a protest they were being denied a chance for the bills to come up for a vote, was it not?

As such, the criticism of what is in these bills is entirely germane.

As I pointed out yesterday, given that this new found activism on the part of these House progressives has been missing on issues like single payer, mass surveillance, criminal investigation into the crimes of the Bush Administration, torture and calling for prosecution of those engaged in torture, et al, this particular spark of activism on their part should be examined according to what is their intent politically in this matter.

Given that the laws they are engaging in a sit-in to have a vote taken on, have to do with codifying what is Constitutional abuse according to the body of political influence known as the "war on terror", then is it not reasonable to analyze this from the standpoint that in large part they are engaging in political opportunism within that "war on terror" framework?

I'm certainly not an advocate of gun ownership. You can peruse many posts where I am very critical of gun culture.

However, I just want to add to the discussion here, which is my prerogative on this open forum, from the standpoint of a closer examination of what this newly found activism is all about.

Thanks for everything.


Note…I made one edit, changing one word, within the 5 minute window where the edit doesn't show up as a pencil. My intent is complete transparency in this regard.


I think you might find this quote interesting from Zaid Jilani of the Intercept that speaks to the political opportunism at work here, that was actually in yesterday's initial article on this (by the way, somehow I missed this quote so I can understand missing things in articles, like I alluded to yesterday…we are only human).

While sit-in participants are also advocating for expanded background checks and an assault weapons ban, their primary call to action is for a vote on a measure that would ban gun sales to people listed on a federal government watchlist – a move clearly designed more for its political potency than for its effectiveness.

Just trying to add to your excellent contribution on these threads.

Keep up the good work as bks writes.



Please don't tell me what I'm "essentially" arguing. Upthread, I said of course these aren't the bills we're looking for. I criticize the bills too. Let's take one thread at a time.


The problem is gun control. I would think the target would be the most lethal weapons: the ones that shoot so fast with so many bullets that multiple people are killed at once. The question I ask myself is: what does the government control well? What system does govt have such control over as to effect change? Legislation. So it seems fairly clear to me that legislation must be passed to OUTLAW THE (as in to make illegal) MANUFACTURE of these types of weapons (even for armed forces-outlaw manufacture). {we've got drones, right?}. You can't rely on any other method. Other attempts at gun control have not worked. ~I know this isn't likely to ever be proposed given the sit-in/butt-face off, but it is the logical thing.


What they were demanding was public debate, public recognition of the
problems with these bills, and perhaps amendments to improve them.

You are making an argument that the purpose of their sit in, was to demand "public debate, public recognition of the problems with these bills, and perhaps amendments to improve them". How is that? You aren't just essentially arguing that, you are actually arguing that.

To that specific point, I am offering a counterpoint.

That counterpoint is, they aren't merely engaging in this sit in for the purpose of having a chance to fix these bills as per the problems that this author points out, and the points being made by civil liberties advocates, and myself.

They are in fact engaging in this sit-in to have these bills voted on and passed. And, as I and others point out, but you seemingly (I could be wrong about this, correct me if I am) completely dismiss any analysis of their motives as it pertains to the political opportunism within the framework of the "war on terror".

Let's take one thread at a time

I like sometimes to venture into the fascinating world of digesting various threads that are intertwined.

Forgive me for forum multitasking.

Thanks again bkswrites for your positive and valuable contribution to this forum. A real treasure, already.



There was a mass murder in Australia around 1990 (Port Arthur). Strict gun laws were imposed involving automatic and semi-automatic weapons. There was even a compulsory buy-back at market prices of these weapons already owned by citizens. Since that time, there have been no more mass shootings in Australia and overall homicides and suicides are down. In the US, we need a ban on certain types of weapons which are designed for mass killing.


Just to add to this fascinating discussion, I just noticed something you wrote that I didn't catch the first time.

You actually wrote, not essentially but actually…

> First, it's not the legislators who apply any law.

No, they simply write the laws, and then vote to pass them, and then the President signs the laws, and those laws are applied by law enforcement and the like.

I'd like to just point out the obvious. Laws can never be applied that aren't written in the first place.

It bears repeating, their sit-in in the House (can we take one legislative body at a time) was to get to pass those laws, not fix them.

Now if you can find any quote, by any of those participating in the sit in, that they were engaged in that sit-in for the purpose of extending debate to fix what they wanted to vote on, then please provide that evidence supporting your argument.

Thanks for everything.



It would be good if Bennis went into why the Dem leadership is trying to restrict Dem Reps from pushing better gun bills.


Unfortunately, since the Speaker kept knocking the body out of session, there was no good record of the full event. But after each of the attempts by the leadership to take back the chamber, as opponents hung around and tried to mock or shout down the sitters-in, I saw at least one speaker address them and invite them to engage in debate. At 1:30 or 2 AM, before the last comedy of being more "businesslike," I witnessed an extended and passionate effort by a Member from California, I believe, who went clear across to the other lectern and implored those who'd been heckling to come to their accustomed spot and 'tell us what's wrong with these bills; come and do your job, tell us why these bills shouldn't be passed, or how to change them to make them better.' Things got very quiet all of a sudden, and when the camera panned again back to the seats on that side of the chamber, they were almost completely empty, where before there had been scattered observers and several knots of people sitting or standing. I was impressed with the cowardice.


phyllis, i love you! i always count on you to make cogent analyses and raise points that i needed to hear. thanks for pointing out your objections to the posture taken by these 'daring dems.' of course, you make perfect sense. (i don't know where you stand on our so-called presidential candidates, but jill's campaign asked us whom we'd suggest for her running mate.... i wrote in your name.)


yes!!! amy goodman ran a fabulous interview with rebecca peters who was instrumental in that movement. http://www.democracynow.org/2016/6/13/australia_stopped_mass_shootings_after_1996


I think you answered my challenge with oranges instead of apples, or vise versa, although I do appreciate the civility of your response.

My challenge pertains to any record of intent, any quote, voice recording or video, that indicates the intent of any one of these legislators or group of these legislators (the ones engaging in the sit-in calling for a vote on the proposed legislation) that specifically calls for changes in the bills proposed, relative to the proposed terrorist watch list provisions.

Again, the angle I'm taking on this is that I am asserting they are engaging in "war on terror" political opportunism.

I'm also countering your contention, that their intent had anything to do with extending debate. I'm asserting that their intent was to get this legislation passed, period.

Thus, the political expediency argument relative "war on terror" that I'm making remains in tact, until I see evidence otherwise.

As I understand the account you describe, the person that went to the other lectern was absolutely defending the bills as written, which goes back to simply reinforcing my argument.

Their intent is to get those bills passed, as written.

If these legislators were engaging in a sit-in to simply ban these weapons, instead of engaging in "war on terror" politics, then I would be chock full of praise for them indeed.

But I would also still be asking, why didn't they engage in sit-ins like this before on torture, war making and funding, single payer, and the rest.

Presidential year opportunity to look tough on the "war on terror", and they are all over it.


Thank you for this exact reference to Australia's change in gun laws!


Silly Paul Ryan called it a "stunt", but I am proud of them


Let's find out who the companies are that sell these weapons and support the militarized industrialized complex. Do you just THINK that this is behind the NRA power? The NRA is a private club but let's think furthur and dig furthur as to what is behind it. It's most likely the SAME people who are behind Wall Street, and Citizen's United.