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 LewisThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same CBC marks 400th anniversary of slaves' arrival in US GOP buys JonOssoff.com after Democrat launches Georgia Senate bid MORE, Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkTen notable Democrats who do not favor impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Fourth-ranking House Democrat backs Trump impeachment MORE, and Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyTo combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment 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 McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill 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.