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 LewisPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act MORE, Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPelosi calls for investments in child care, early education A workplace safety solution Anita Hill would be proud of Senate Dems put brakes on Trump impeachment talk MORE, and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyThe Congressional Black Caucus: America stands to lose a lot under TrumpCare Pelosi joins other Dem leaders in support of Chicago Symphony Orchestra strikers Hillicon Valley: US threatens to hold intel from Germany over Huawei | GOP senator targets FTC over privacy | Bipartisan bill would beef up 'internet of things' security | Privacy groups seize on suspended NSA program | Tesla makes U-turn 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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval 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.