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A Month After Orlando, Capitol Vigil Marks Inaction on Guns

"Doing nothing is an insult," Democrats say

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, right, speaks during a vigil Tuesday on the Capitol steps in front of his fellow Democratic members holding up pictures of the Orlando nightclub victims, to mark the one month anniversary of the shooting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Georgia Rep. John Lewis, right, speaks during a vigil Tuesday on the Capitol steps in front of his fellow Democratic members holding up pictures of the Orlando nightclub victims, to mark the one month anniversary of the shooting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A month to the day after the shooting that left 49 people dead in a Florida gay nightclub, a House committee held a hearing on legislation that LGBT rights advocates say would allow discrimination. Another committee pounded the nation’s top law enforcement officer with more questions about email servers than mass shootings.  

And lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol acknowledged that even the most lenient gun control initiatives would not pass this Congress.  

About 60 House Democrats turned up on the Capitol steps Tuesday evening for a vigil to honor the victims of last month’s deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, and to speak to the lack of action inside the building’s walls.  

Lawmakers held posters with photographs of each Orlando victim, while advocates stood on the far grass across from the vigil with a banner that read “Disarm Hate.”  

Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island opened the vigil saying that the group “brought the faces of the victims of this horrible attack to the Capitol steps.  

“Be the voices of those silenced by guns. We need to come together to get something done. Doing nothing is an insult,” he said.  

Cicilline then began reading the names of the victims of the massacre, joined by other co-chairs of the LGBT Equality caucus: Jared Polis of Colorado, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Mark Takano of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. As they read the names, a few members raised their posters higher when their victim’s name was called.  

“Here in Congress, we need to send a strong message that we do not allow, that we do not allow … discrimination in America against those who are gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.  

Hoyer blasted the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for holding a hearing Tuesday on a bill called the First Amendment Defense Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho, both Republicans.  

The bill would prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of their traditional views on marriage — critics have characterized it as a bill that would allow individuals and companies to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the timing of the hearing offensive. He joined his colleagues and over 30 groups in asking the committee, led by Chairman Jason Chaffetz, to cancel the hearing.   

Following the hearing, the committee said they were reviewing their next steps.  

Meanwhile, Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in the hot seat at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, but not over gun safety or community policing. Instead she answered repeated questions about her decision to accept the FBI’s recommendation to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified emails on a private email server.  

After calling the topic “overhyped,” New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler said, “I am going to focus instead on more important issues facing this country.”  

“Exactly one month ago today, a lone gunman killed 49 people, and wounded more than 50 others, in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando,” he said.  

Nadler then added, “There is an epidemic of gun violence. And how has the majority in Congress responded?  With emergency hearings about Hillary Clinton’s and [former IRS official] Lois Lerner’s emails. We have held, of course, zero hearings on gun violence.”  

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California acknowledged Monday that a counterterrorism and gun control measure would not come up for a vote before the seven-week summer recess.  

But he and Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Republicans would begin to focus on another concern laid bare last week: the fractured relations between police and the African-American community.  

“Right now what we want to do is have a good conversation where we calm things down and we talk about solutions, about how we can better improve our communities and the relationship between law enforcement and communities,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican  

Washington GOP Rep. Dave Reichert, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee Law Enforcement Task Force and a former sheriff, said he’s been trying to put together a bipartisan working group to discuss ways to improve relations.  

Reichert added that he is working with Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who endured arrest and abuse by the police in the 1960s, on an op-ed that he hopes will run sometime this week.  

“Just trying to say, ‘Hey, you know, let’s everybody take a deep breath. We’re all Americans. Let’s let the process work and respect civility.’ You know, that sort of a message,” Reichert said. “I think the two of us together coming from different backgrounds, that would be powerful.”

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