In the wake of the police killing of two black men – in Baton Rouge, La. and St. Paul, Min. respectively – and the slaughter of five Dallas police officers by a lone, deranged black gunman, North Carolina Congressman G. K. Butterfield [D-NC-1] warned that Congress must immediately act to stem the tide of violence with meaningful gun and police reforms.
“If we fail to act, this will be a long hot summer,” Rep. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters last Friday during a CBC press conference.
Before Congress broke for the July 4th recess, the issue was gun control in the aftermath of the tragic Orlando nightclub massacre where 49 were killed a month ago this week. In fact, NC Congresswoman Alma Adams [D-NC-12] held a June 30th tele-town hall in Charlotte on what could be done to quell gun violence in the community.
House Democrats – including North Carolina congresspersons Butterfield, Adams and David Price [D-NC-4] – staged a dramatic 26-hour sit-in on the House floor, demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican House majority at least bring a bill to the floor that would enhance gun owner background checks, disallow people on the No Fly list from purchasing guns, and limit the sale of assault weapons like the AR-15.
“I do not believe [gun legislation] is the answer,” Rep. Pete Sessions [R-Texas] of Dallas, maintained.
Based on tentative press reports, there were indications that Speaker Ryan told members of the GOP Caucus that he would be willing to have a bill to keep guns from suspected terrorists reach the floor for a vote after the recess, but when Congress reconvened last week, no bill was forthcoming, outraging Democrats.
And when the police killings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul occurred, culminating in the police slayings in Dallas, House Democrats, and specifically members of the Congressional Black Caucus, soon realized that pushing for gun reform was not enough.
“We’re hearing frustration not only from the law enforcement community, but the African-American community and other communities all across the country,” Rep. Butterfield told MSNBC Monday. “It’s pouring in everyday from the American people who want action on gun violence. They’re demanding that we, as members of Congress, legislate to make sure that those who are not capable of flying [on] an airplane because they’re on a no-fly list that they are disqualified from owning a weapon. Ninety-percent of the American people believe that there should be background checks before you can purchase a firearm.”
Rep. Butterfield continued, “ The American people are peaking very loudly so we need a hearing here in Congress on gun violence that we need legislative action, and we need it now. Anxiety and fear is gripping the nation, so we need a legislative response and we need it now!”
Addressing the growing concerns that relations between the African-American community and law enforcement have become increasingly worse since the recent police shootings and nationwide protests, Rep. Butterfield said that Congress does have a role in lowering the temperature.
“The statistics are clear – of all of the unarmed men shot by police in this country , at least last year, 40% were African-American, even though black men make up only 6% of the nation’s population. So the data is clear – African-Americans are two-and-a-half time more likely to be killed by police than other Americans.
“We must immediately stop what we’re doing here in Congress and appropriate money for law enforcement agencies across the country so that they can train and retrain their officers, so they can separate the good ones from the bad ones, and get to the concept of community policing, thereby creating this bond of trust between the community and law enforcement,” Butterfield said Monday. “Until we do that we’re going to continue to have unrest in our communities, and we are better than that.”
Congress goes on a seven-week recess one day early today, combining the traditional two-weeks off for the two national political conventions, and taking off the month of August. When Congress returns at the beginning of September, it will only convene only for a brief period, and then recess again allowing members to return to their districts to tend to their November re-election campaigns.
According to The Hill.com, “After delaying a vote on a gun control bill this week, GOP leaders told rank-and-file members they plan to adjourn for the long summer recess beginning Thursday, a day earlier than expected.”
The Hill.com continued, “The measure currently lacks the votes to pass given divisions among Republicans and widespread Democratic opposition.”