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Did The Gun-Control Sit-In By Democrats Accomplish Anything?


The House goes into recess in just over a week, but Democrats have still not convinced the House Republican leadership to allow a vote on gun control. This is the vote Democrats began pushing for when they held their sit-in on June 22 in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting. Among the Democratic proposals are one to prohibit people on Homeland Security's no-fly list from purchasing firearms. And let's talk about all of this with Representative Norma Torres. She's a Democrat from California. Congresswoman, good morning.

NORMA TORRES: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So I gather you - you bring some personal experience to this debate. You were a 911 dispatcher before going into politics. Is that right?

TORRES: Absolutely. I worked in the city of Los Angeles as a 911 dispatcher. And, you know, it's - this is an everyday occurrence, listening to victims of gun violence.

GREENE: Is there a story that stands out to you?

TORRES: Yes, a story of an 11-year-old girl, you know, who's - who was shot five times point-blank by her mother's boyfriend. It was an open line on 911. All I could hear in the - in the beginning were, you know, these violent screams and a thumping sound. Later, I learned that that thumping that I was hearing was her head being bashed against the wall.

And then, that was followed by five shots that ended her life. Her last words were not mere screams. Her last words were, uncle, please don't kill me. And this is another domestic violence incident that shouldn't have happened, you know, had this person not been allowed to have a gun.

GREENE: You know, it - we should say - I mean, that is - that's a terrible story to listen to. I - there are - there are people on the other side of this debate who would say that tighter gun control measures are not the answer and would not have - have prevented something like that, that enforcing current gun control laws is the right way to do this. Does it - do they have a point?

TORRES: They absolutely have a point, but I would challenge back and say there's a life of an 11-year-old girl. There's the everyday life of 297 people that are shot every single day, 91 people that are murdered. Don't they matter? And shouldn't we, at the very, very least, be allowed to have a conversation about what is happening in America?

GREENE: Well, you know, Republicans made the point that having that sit-in, as you and your party did last month, was not, to them, a conversation. House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was a publicity stunt, said that there are better ways to debate something within the bounds of order to have that conversation. I mean, what do you make of that argument?

TORRES: I think Speaker Ryan is doing his job in trying to protect his members from the NRA, and I think that it is despicable that he would allow politicking to get in the way of protecting 297 people every day in America that are shot. And I think it's shameful...

GREENE: Though he was saying that Democrats - he was saying that Democrats were politicking when they held that sit-in.

TORRES: Right, and I believe that they are politicking. And we had to sit-in in order to speak out about an issue that is important in our communities, an issue that they have refused to allow us to vote on, an issue that they refuse to sit down and negotiate a solution, even refusing - to the extent of refusing to fund the CDC to study this epidemic in America.

GREENE: We just have about 40 seconds or less, Congresswoman. This - this idea for the no-fly, no-buy proposal, which would block Americans on the no-fly list from buying firearms - one concern is that there's a guilt-before-innocence thing here, that people can be put on that list just, you know, if the government wants to put them there. Is that a fair - a fair concern?

TORRES: It is a concern that it is addressed in H.R.1076, which allows the FBI up to 60 days to challenge - or a person to challenge this determination, whether they should continue to be on this list or not. And I think 60 days should be the number that we use - the number of days that we use in order to allow - before we give somebody a handgun.

GREENE: OK, we'll have to leave it there. That is Democratic Congresswoman Norma Torres from the state of California. Congresswoman, thank you so much for the time this morning.

TORRES: Thank you so much, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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