Hundreds of gun safety and gun control advocates rallied outside the Capitol Wednesday, cheering speeches from Democratic lawmakers who are pushing for passage of what they say are ‘common sense’ gun measures in the wake of a particularly deadly string of mass shootings across the country.
“We are facing the challenge of our lifetime — this is the challenge of our era,” declared Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), whose son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012.
The House was expected later Wednesday to pass, along partisan lines, the Protecting Our Kids Act, a package of measures that include raising the age to purchase certain semi-automatic guns from 18 to 21, banning the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines, and incentivizing safer gun storage, among other things.
But the bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate where Republicans say such measures are too extreme and infringe on rights guaranteed under the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
A bipartisan group of Senators, meanwhile, continues to work on more modest legislation that would at least have a chance of getting the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other supporters of gun control chalk up the GOP’s opposition to political pressure from the NRA.
“We really don’t want to hear about your political survival,” Rep. Pelosi told the crowd, “your political survival means nothing compared to the survival of our children.”
Students in the crowd held signs reading "I should be reading books not eulogies" and "Don't look away," suggesting that those who block progress on gun safety are intentionally ignoring a problem they have helped create.
"Number one cause of death for kids and teens, only in this country," said rally-goer Kelly Johnson, "it’s a public health crisis, we've got to do something."
Born in Tulsa and raised in Texas, Johnson now lives in Alexandria, Virginia and volunteers with the group Moms Demand Action.
She said she is a gun owner who believes in secure storage, believes in background checks that don’t have loopholes, and in red flag laws.
"And, frankly, the thing that’s so fascinating," Johnson said in an interview, "so do all of my family members in Oklahoma and Texas -- they also support these kinds of common sense gun legislation,"
Johnson works in the field of mental health and doesn't disagree with the GOP assertion that there is a mental health crisis in America. However, she disputes the notion that that problem, or other social evils can explain the high number of mass shootings.
"Those things happen all over the world, but it's only in this country that we have this unfettered access to weapons -- weapons of war," said Johnson.
Still, House Republicans gave no indication that they could be swayed to support any of the Democrats' legislation.
"Make no mistake, the Democrats efforts today and tomorrow," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), "are to destroy the Second Amendment. "
Oklahoma's 3rd District Congressman Frank Lucas, in an interview Wednesday afternoon, said he believes Democrats are taking advantage of the recent tragedies to push through legislation they've been unable to pass for decades, and said the majority of his constituents would not want him to support it.
"They are very focused on traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment," said Rep. Lucas, "and they are not prepared for any of this as a whole."
"Other members of the Oklahoma delegation have voiced similar concerns. On Tuesday Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK4) called the house package "deeply misguided" and not respectful of the rights of law-abiding citizens.