House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday blasted the gun control sit-in as a “publicity stunt” and “fundraising scheme,” accusing Democrats of setting a “very dangerous precedent” in the House of Representatives.
Democrats staged an unprecedented protest on the House floor Wednesday in an effort to force a vote on gun-control legislation that would strengthen background checks on gun buyers and keep people who are on the no-fly list from buying guns.
House members voted on other legislation in the middle of the night, and then Republicans adjourned until July 5 without a vote on gun control.
“We watched a publicity stunt, a fundraising stunt descend an institution that many of us care a great deal about,” Ryan said, responding to a question from a reporter about what precedent the sit-in sets. “So, yeah, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent.”
Ryan blasted his Democratic colleagues for disregarding the rules of decorum.
“One of the things that makes our country strong is our institutions,” Ryan said. “No matter how bad things get in this country, we have a basic structure that ensures a functioning democracy. We can disagree on policy. But we do so within the bounds of order and respect for the system. Otherwise, it all falls apart.”
(You can watch the relevant clip from Ryan’s rant below.)
Ryan explained: “If Democrats want to vote for a bill on the floor, there’s a way to get one. It just takes 218 signatures on a petition and then they can have a vote. It is that simple. That’s how the House works. It’s a well-known process.”
He then blasted Democrats for ignoring this process in an effort to get publicity.
“They are not trying to actually get this done through regular order,” he said. “No, instead, they’re staging protests. They’re trying to get on TV.”
Ryan accused Democrats of trying to profit off of a recent shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, which is what spurred the gun control legislation at hand. A man who had been on a US terror watch list shot and killed 49 people at the nightclub, claiming he was acting in the name of the terrorist group ISIS.
“If this is not a political stunt, then why are they trying to raise money off of this? Off of a tragedy?” he asked.
He held up print-outs of emails from Democrats asking for money as the sit-in was ongoing.
“They are sending out fundraising solicitations,” Ryan said. “‘Look at what we’re doing on the House floor! Send us money,'” he continued, mocking the emails.
Ryan also blasted the legislation itself. The House sit-in came several days after a series of gun-control measures brought by members of both parties failed to pass in the Senate.
Some advocacy groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have warned against allowing legislation that would prevent people buying guns based on an “error-prone and unfair watchlisting system.”
“In this country, we do not take away people’s constitutional rights without due process,” Ryan said. “This is not just Republicans saying this. It’s groups like the ACLU who are saying this.”
Ryan emphasised that fighting terrorism should be the solution to preventing further tragedy, not restricting gun sales.
“Our focus needs to be on confronting radical extremism,” Ryan said. “Terrorism is the issue. … And defeating terrorism is our focus here in the House.”
Watch the full presser below:
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