In relentless ritual, the U.S. House of Representatives observes moments of silence for those caught in the crossfire of mass shootings.
On Monday, lawmakers stopped once again to recall victims of the Santa Fe school shooting in Texas last week. But after sitting through nearly 50 of these silent moments, a New Jersey congresswoman could no longer keep quiet.
As the gavel banged, ending the time of silence requested by U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, U.S. Rep. Watson Coleman jumped up and shouted, “Your moment of silence doesn’t save one single solitary life. Do something!”
The House resumed normal business after her outburst, hardly noting what she said.
“It was an expression of my ultimate frustration that this Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t care enough to keep our children safe, to keep our communities safe because they’re so beholden to the NRA,” she said.
The Mercer County Democrat’s reaction was impromptu.
It was as if “God kicked her out of her seat,” and she heard herself yelling.
“It was not protocol. It is not something that I do,” Watson Coleman said. “But I think this Republican-controlled Congress is what’s out of control.”
After all those dozens of silent moments, she said, the House has stayed much too silent on any gun-safety legislation.
“I believe that the situation is that critical, that the safety and security of our children in school, as well as people who gather in other places, is at risk unlike ever before,” Watson Coleman said. “This is a developed country that has more guns per person, that has more mass killings per person, and we’re supposed to be the beacon on the hill for other countries.”
Approximately 20 school shootings have occurred in 2018, and the majority of Americans say they support certain gun-safety proposals.
Meanwhile, “moments of silence are impotent. They do nothing,” said Watson Coleman who worries about her granddaughter who will start school in the fall and will have to practice active-shooter drills.
“This is going to have a profound negative effect on our generations that are growing up,” she said. “They’re going to be traumatized. They’re going to suffer from PTSD. They’re not going to want to go to school. They’re not going to trust us to keep them safe. We have a responsibility to do something.”
Watson Coleman says hundreds of gun-safety bills are languishing because Congress won’t address the issue. She blamed House Speaker Paul Ryan for not bringing up those bills.
“The person who sits in that [House Speaker] chair makes the determination whether or not we value those innocent lives we are losing every single solitary day because people who shouldn’t have access to guns have access to guns, or whether or not we should have one more moment of silence.
“We better get sensible about what we’re doing,” she said. “Screw the NRA. It’s screwing us.”
Only two gun-related bills have become law since the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects firearm manufacturers from being sued for crimes committed with their guns. Another measure undid an Obama-era regulation and added some people with mental illnesses to the FBI’s background-check database.