After Orlando, Congress Once Again Fails to Pass Measures to Reduce Gun Violence

Posted June 22, 2016

MP3 Interview with Ladd Everitt, director of communications with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, conducted by Scott Harris

guns

In the aftermath of the mass murder of 49 – and injuries to more than 50 others at an Orlando, Florida LGBTQ nightclub – the U.S. is again debating the need for stronger gun regulations. The worst mass shooting incident in U.S. history motivated Connecticut Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy to launch a 15-hour filibuster that succeeded in scheduling a vote on several key gun control measures on June 20. But like so many times before Republicans, backed by the NRA, voted to block the most effective legislative proposals designed to make the nation’s background check system more comprehensive – and preventing individuals on the government’s terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.

Despite overwhelming support for these bills, GOP politicians and a handful of conservative Democrats continue to oppose virtually all initiatives to reduce gun violence. A recent poll conducted by CNN/ORC found 92 percent of Americans say they want expanded background checks, while 85 percent say they favor banning people on federal watchlists from buying firearms. The deadly epidemic of 30,000 gun-related murders and suicides that occur each year in the U.S., are among the highest per capita in the world.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Ladd Everitt, director of communications with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, who talks about the slow, but steady progress he sees in mounting public pressure on Congress to enact basic gun safety regulations. (Rush transcript)

LADD EVERITT: I think we've always known, even going into this vote, that's going to have to be I guess you would call some regime change in Congress before we can really move forward aggressively with reform. I'm very confident that we're going to do that. One really, really important thing that's come out of all this is we are, I think we are going to get the buy-in of the LGBTQ movement moving forward on gun violence prevention measures. Many people might have seen George DeKay's great piece in the Daily Beast the other night, where he was full-throatedly arguing for a LGBTQ involvement in this issue. That's going to make a humungous difference for us. And you can only imagine, I mean, there's a lot of people undoubtedly, probably mostly in Orlando and Florida who are really aggravated that we couldn't even do something simple, like prohibiting suspected terrorists like the Orlando shooter from buying guns. So I think this is going to come back to bite them in a big way. And I am very confident at this point, moving into November, that many of these politicians are going to pay a price. When (Sen.) Kelly Ayott (R, New Hampshire) spoke on the floor today before the votes, she looked pale as a ghost and was clearly nervous. She was trying to lay out a case for why she was going to vote the way she was going to vote, but she knows that she's up in November. So, this is a long game. This is not a short game.

For those who lack patience, or lack a sense of history of how change comes in this country, you're probably going to be pretty frustrated. But I feel very good about where we are after this terrible shooting. There was real movement, even in the Republican ranks, particularly with the way Donald Trump responded about the terrorist watch list issue. He moved the NRA on the issue. Republicans clearly are more skittish than they've ever been. You could see that by the mere fact that they were willing to allow votes so quickly. But I think there will now obviously will be - you know we're getting plenty of calls now, let's have these votes, hopefully they'll die off. I think what they're going to find out is it's not going to die off. We're going to stay red hot going up until November, and then there's going be some very contested races. And I think this issue will play a huge role then.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Ladd, I wanted to ask you about Maine Rep. Susan Collins. In a compromise proposal that she was talking about late last week that included using the "no-fly" list as opposed to the terrorist watchlist to prohibit sales of firearms to those individuals. What do you make of her proposal as a compromise? Is it credible?

LADD EVERITT: I think it is credible, yeah. It will be very interesting to see where this goes from here. For those who just think as a knee-jerk that we've had our votes and we're not going to get anymore votes, I wouldn't be so quick to say that right now. It's possible that Sen. Collins and Sen. (Heidi) Heitkamp, who was working with her on those compromise measures, could step forward and keep developing their proposal and we could have an additional vote on you know, on that measure. But I appreciate Sen. Collins and Sen. Heitkamp working on that. I will say that Sen. Heitkamp's two "no" votes on the good bills today (June 20) but it would not surprise me in the least if unlike Newtown, this vote is the beginning of a process as opposed to the end of a process.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So many politicians who are voting with the National Rifle Association and getting their money for their campaign contributions have for years appeared to be insulated against public accountability for their votes in Congress that go against public opinion. But does it come down to gerrymandered districts? It's just hard to imagine why these folks continue to be so insulated from any kind of accountability.

LADD EVERITT: Yeah, but I don't think that's a permanent feature of our politics. You know, it's not as if Democrats can retake these chambers of Congress. You know, the Senate is certainly in play, very much in play in November. And I think a lot of people now feel that the House is as well. Republicans have a presidential candidate who – probably "unstable" is a good way to describe him – where who knows what's going to happen between now and November that could affect voting downticket from the president. And long term, looking forward, the demographic and cultural changes in this nation do not favor Republicans and they certainly don't favor a radical Republican party. So, look, I think the Republicans are trying to milk this reactionary wave as much as they can of you know of, certain white Americans who feel downtrodden or feel like they're losing their privilege in society. But again, I don't think that's a long-term strategy for organizing. I think it has some short-term benefits. But long term, it's a failed strategy that's not going to work.

Learn more about the campaign to enact common sense gun regulations by visiting the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence at csgv.org; Every Town For Gun Safety at everytown.org; Shooter Tracker at shootingtracker.com

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