Marc Veasey, who represents a swath of southern Tarrant and Dallas Counties, was among the Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives involved in a sit-in on the House floor yesterday. The stunt was an attempt to force the chamber's Republican leadership to take a vote on so-called "no fly, no buy" gun-control legislation.
"Today I joined House Democrats in an unprecedented sit-in on the House floor, calling for immediate action on common-sense gun safety legislation to protect Americans nationwide," Veasey said in a statement. "No one law or set of laws will end horrific acts of violence, but Congress has an obligation to take action and make sure that terrorists and bad guys don’t have easy access to guns in our country."
What Veasey and his colleagues in protest want is a ban on gun sales to people on the federal government's no-fly list. Such a ban would've prevented Orlando club shooter Omar Mateen from legally buying the AR-15 he used to carry out the 49 murders he committed. The members of Congress participating in the sit-in say they will not vacate the floor until a vote is taken.
The idea of "no fly, no buy" has critics on both the left and right. Critics stress that anyone can be placed on the no-fly list for almost any reason the federal government feels is necessary, as illuminated in a letter sent to senators by the American Civil Liberties Union. "Our nation’s watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable," wrote ACLU officials Hina Shamsi and Chris Anders. "It uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names."
Veasy didn't address the faults in the no-fly list, but instead aimed conciliatory comments at those defending weapon ownership. "As a native Texan, I can assure my constituents that responsible gun owners are not the target of our actions," Veasey said. "Instead, we are urging House Republicans to come together with House Democrats to finally pass common-sense laws to protect Americans from senseless violence."
After Democrats filibustered to force a vote on a similar bill in the Senate, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn offered an amendment that would've flagged any gun purchase by someone on the no-fly list for up to three days of investigation. If it was determined that there was probable cause to stop the person from buying a gun, that person could be detained. Cornyn told reporters Monday that his amendment would've "kept terrorists off the street," but it was defeated 53-47.
The sitting Democrats appear set to remain on the floor of the House until someone does something to remove them. Wednesday night, Ryan made a failed procedural attempt to break the sit-in, but he has been unwilling so far use his authority under House Rule 1 to have the House Sergeant at Arms physically remove the sitting representatives.