Rep. Wexton joins protest outside NRA headquarters in Virginia

Democrats rail against Trump, gun lobby in wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton

Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton joined protesters outside the National Rifle Association headquarters on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Virginia Rep. Jennifer Wexton joined protesters outside the National Rifle Association headquarters on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 6, 2019 at 10:45am

Rep. Jennifer Wexton joined hundreds of protesters Monday at a vigil outside the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, to call for more restrictive gun laws and memorialize the victims of two mass shootings over the weekend.

“I’m not supposed to be political … but it’s hard because — is it political to say that I’m tired of coming to this building and the only thing that’s changed is that the body count has gone up?” the freshman Democrat from Northern Virginia asked the crowd.

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The NRA headquarters, which also has a shooting range, is on the doorstep of Wexton’s 10th District.

Gun control advocates, including March for Our Lives Northern Virginia, organized the rally to honor the victims of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, which saw gunmen kill at least 31 people and wounded at least 50 others in unconnected attacks.

Wexton urged the protesters gathered at the NRA headquarters on Monday to “ensure that [the victims’] lives and deaths were not in vain” and to “honor them through action.”

[Emotional Portman hopes for consensus on combating gun violence after Dayton, El Paso mass shootings]

The congresswoman has been outspoken in her opposition to military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and has advocated expanding the national background check system for gun purchasers.

Wexton held a town hall earlier this summer on gun violence prevention after she introduced a bill that would allow local law enforcement to block the sale or transfer of any weapon regulated under the National Firearms Act, including silencers.

A gunman in Virginia earlier this year killed 12 people at a government office building with a silenced .45 caliber handgun.

In Texas, where the El Paso shooter posted a manifesto online decrying an “invasion” of Hispanic immigrants into the U.S. before mowing down dozens of people at a local Walmart on Saturday, current and former Democratic lawmakers have been aggressively calling for Congress to implement more gun control measures and panning Republican inaction.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso congressman, sounded off on President Donald Trump and the media when asked if he thought Trump could do anything to help the community heal after the shooting in his old district.

“What do you think? You know the s— he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f—? Hold on a second. You know, I — it’s these questions that you know the answers to,” O’Rourke said.

“I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country. So I just— I don’t know what kind of question that is.”

O’Rourke and his successor in Texas’ 16th District, Democrat Veronica Escobar, have both said Trump is not welcome there. The president is planning to visit both El Paso and Dayton on Wednesday.

“Words have consequences. The president has made my community and my people the enemy,” Escobar said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated.”

At a reelection rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, earlier this year, Trump appealed to the crowd for solutions to stem illegal border crossings.

“How do you stop these people?” he asked.

“Shoot them,” a man in the audience yelled, to laughter from the rest of the crowd and a smile from Trump.

“That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff,” the president said, to more laughs. “Only in the Panhandle.”

Trump addressed the nation Monday and denounced white supremacy, something he has failed to do unequivocally in the past, including after a deadly 2017 clash between neo-Nazis and counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” the president said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

Trump has signaled since the El Paso and Dayton shootings that he might be willing to back a proposal to incentivize states to enact “red flag” laws that prohibit the sale of weapons to people who have been reported by family members as mentally unfit to own them.

But he is likely to reject any of the sweeping gun law overhaul plans that Democrats have been advocating throughout his presidency.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said in his address to the nation Monday.