Prayer isn’t enough

Americans must demand action from Congress in the aftermath of the Orlando massacre

On Monday, the day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, District 1 Congressman Doug LaMalfa took to the lectern on the floor of the House chamber at the nation’s Capitol and spoke passionately in defense of a Tehama County farmer who is accused of destroying wetlands. Just over 24 hours after the massacre in Orlando that ended the lives of 49 innocent people, LaMalfa was back to business as usual. Unbelievable.

Congratulations, North State voters, this is the person you chose to move on to the general election and potentially represent our region on the national stage for at least the next two years. LaMalfa famously claims to be “one of us,” but that slogan can be in reference only to the most callous individuals in our community. That’s the logical conclusion given the topic he brought before the House during this immensely difficult time for our country, especially its LGBT community, which is reeling from the shooting at the gay nightclub in Florida.

But LaMalfa isn’t an outlier in his party. His Republican colleagues also were mum on the killings and the policy changes that the public says are necessary to reduce the chance of another similar act of violence. Fact is, a majority of Americans favor stricter gun laws. In October, a Gallup poll pegged the number at 55 percent of the populace.

Many congressional Democrats are listening to their constituents. During that same House session, one after the other came to bear witness to the tragedy and the importance of our nation’s leaders in addressing it.

In fact, LaMalfa’s underwhelming one-minute speech followed Los Angeles Democrat Maxine Waters’ fiery oration on the killings. Waters rightly pointed out that holding a moment of silence was a hollow gesture. That’s because it’s done each time the nation grapples with a large-scale shooting—she pointed to Sandy Hook (26 victims, including 20 children), Charleston, S.C. (nine gunned down at church), San Bernardino (14 killed at a regional center) and Aurora, Colo. (12 shot to death in a movie theater).

“This Republican leadership is pitiful. It is disgusting that they don’t have the guts or the commitment to call it like it is and bring a bill upon this floor to get rid of assault weapons,” she said.

Waters appeared stunned by the gall of her Republican colleagues to ignore the elephant in the room and talk about matters that seemed trivial at that moment. She went on to call them “spineless” and “gutless.” From our perspective, those are accurate descriptors. We’ll add “tactless” and “irresponsible” to that list.

Never mind a sweeping ban on so-called assault weapons, Congress has failed in the wake of each massive shooting to enact common-sense laws. The one that stands out post Orlando is a proposal to ban people on a federal terrorism watch list from buying guns. Shooter Omar Mateen had been on that list a few years ago, but was able to lawfully purchase a handgun and rifle days before he gunned down his victims. Such a law may not prevent a similar scenario from playing out in the United States, but it certainly would put up a roadblock.

As we weep for the lives taken in this latest round of gun violence, Americans should be incensed at the fact that our leaders in Washington are numb to it. If they didn’t act after a mentally ill man murdered 20 elementary school students—6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown, Conn.—there’s little hope they will act now.

As for their moment of silence and so-called prayers, LaMalfa and company can keep them. Florida Democrat Corrine Brown’s district includes Orlando. Perhaps she said it best when she shouted at her colleagues on the House floor minutes before LaMalfa’s insensitive appearance. “How much longer are we going to rise for a moment of silent prayer—prayer without work is in vain.”

Hear, hear.