House Democrats have power to stop mass shootings in America

House Democrats have power to stop mass shootings in America
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We have awakened to the tragedy of another mass shooting in our nation. Once again, we watch bleary eyed the television scenes of interviews in front of flashing lights, crime scene tape, tactical police vehicles, another war scene. Once again, it is mourning in America. The question now is will the midterm elections this week matter on the issue of gun safety?

Two years ago, a shooting at an Orlando nightclub inspired powerless Democrats in the House minority not to their feet but to their seats. Led by Representatives John LewisJohn LewisWhoopi Goldberg hits Ocasio-Cortez: You have to do something before you 'start pooping on people' Democrats launch ‘drain-the-swamp’ agenda The 15 Democrats who voted against Pelosi MORE, Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkHispanic Caucus picks Castro as its next chair Progressive rep says she’s ‘very disappointed' by Barbara Lee’s loss in bid for Dem caucus chair Clark wins spot as Dem Caucus vice chair MORE, and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyWorries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles amid shutdown Hillicon Valley: Apple cutting iPhone production | Senior citizens more likely to share fake news on Facebook | Graham says AG nominee will let Mueller finish probe | Dems warn shutdown hurting IT recruitment Hillicon Valley: Marriott cuts breach estimates, but says millions of passports exposed | Los Angeles sues Weather Channel app over data collection | Bill would create office to fight Chinese threats to US tech | German politicians hit by major breach MORE, they staged a daylong sit in on the House floor to protest the refusal of Republicans to hold a vote on gun safety legislation. They chanted, tweeted, and prayed in an unprecedented organized disruption of House proceedings.

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Republicans responded. They protected the sanctity of the House with “tough on incivility” rules against future disruptions, including fines ranging from $500 to $2,500. However, Republicans did nothing to protect the safety of our schools, theaters, synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, or the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, the scene of the latest mass shooting where 12 people were slaughtered overnight.

That is on top of the 195 people who have been killed in mass shootings since Orlando. Back in 2016, House Democrats had to resort to civil disobedience. They had no gavel, no power, no leverage. That will change in January. These midterm elections give me hope, not just because Democrats will have a majority, but because many districts that expanded the majority have voters who support common sense gun safety.

These midterm elections marked a significant realignment of urban and suburban districts supporting Democrats. In moderate counties, a representative who supports measures like stronger background checks or the bipartisan “no fly, no buy” legislation, which would make it more difficult for people who cannot board planes to buy military style assault weapons, simply reflects the common sense of his or her constituents.

The difference will be that Democrats in charge of the House will actually be able to pass that and other bills. Sure, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Shutdown Day 25 | Dems reject White House invite for talks | Leaders nix recess with no deal | McConnell blocks second House Dem funding bill | IRS workers called back for tax-filing season | Senate bucks Trump on Russia sanctions Mellman: Why does the GOP persist? Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight MORE will likely squash the measures in the Senate. But he has a complication in 2020, when the battlefield tilts back to Democrats, with 20 Republican seats and only 11 Democratic seats to be contested.

That includes Senate Republicans in trending blue states like Iowa, Maine, Colorado, and North Carolina, where House Democrats picked up seats this week. If Senate Republicans block popular measures like stronger background checks or better safeguards against bullets that kill cops, they will stand along with the gun lobby and lose support of voters.

It would be nice if Senate Republicans would vote based on your safety instead of their survival, but they will keep making political calculations. Now, however, the calculations are complicated by a unique constellation of circumstances. Democrats can send bills to the Senate, and blue state and purple state Republicans will have a harder time opposing them.

House Democrats are in a position to do something. This is in their hands because Americans put something else in their hands. That is a gavel.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. His latest novel is “Big Guns,” a satire of the gun industry.