The gun lobby usually gets its way in Washington.
In fact, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre is so confident that he dismissed our sit-in to demand a vote on gun violence legislation as “trying to stop a freight train with a piece of Kleenex.”
As a member of the House of Representatives, I am sad to say that his description of our recent failures to act in response to the growing epidemic of mass shootings in this country is shamefully accurate.
After each tragedy, I hear the pleas for action from my constituents and from Americans around the country. And in every instance, Congress has done nothing.
That is why we disrupted the usual operations of the House for nearly 26 hours. That is why we rallied on the House Floor and demanded action. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable option.
I was elected to Congress in April of 2010. Since then, we have paused the business of the House for too many moments of silence - for Orlando, San Bernardino, Umpqua, Charleston, Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, and too many others.
We continued in that spirit after the worst mass shooting in American history, but we did not stop at the moment of silence. We acted.
Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the sit-in as a publicity stunt. What he doesn’t understand is that attention in itself was not our goal. While we certainly received attention, even with the cameras in the House chamber switched off, we will not stop until we get a vote.
A vote would show the people I represent in South Florida, show all Americans and the world, and record for history where each of us stands. Do we stand with the gun lobby? Or with the victims, their families, and Americans who refuse to live in fear of the next attack?
As an LGBT ally and Floridian, the attacks in Orlando struck me on a very personal level. I attended vigils, pride parades, and quiet meetings with friends and neighbors who will be forever changed by the violence that night; a night that should have been a celebration of pride, of love, and of community.
I am also a Jewish American, and our community is far too familiar with tragedies caused by a bigot with a weapon. We consistently stand against hatred in any form - against African Americans, the LGBT community, and others - because we share a common experience of being the target of such baseless intolerance.
And because attacks like the Pulse mass shooting are an affront to our values.
In response to the attacks on Jewish communities around the world, including Buenos Aires and Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen, we have come together to protect ourselves from dangers that come from gun-wielding terrorists.
We should strive to maintain that level of protection here in the United States, for every American. Let us start by acknowledging that there is no reason that a suspected terrorist should be barred from flying on a plane but legally permitted to buy a gun.
That’s common sense.
I sat on the House Floor for more than a day because I refuse to let the next mass shooting happen without doing everything I can to fight back. Congress has failed the American people too many times.
Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, teaches that while I may not be obligated to complete the work, neither am I free to desist from it. In other words, I am obligated to work as hard as I can to advance our shared goal of safer communities.
We learned last week that Speaker Ryan will soon allow a vote on gun legislation. We don’t have all of the details, and we won’t know if his proposal will do anything to stop the violence that we have become far too accustomed to experiencing. No matter the outcome of that vote, I will continue to carry on with the vital work necessary to stop gun violence.