Congressman and Former Marine Says Assault Rifles Don't Belong on City Streets
July 27, 2016 Seth Moulton / New York Daily News & Katie Mettler / The Washington Post & Jason Zengerle/ GQ Magazine
Congressman and Iraq War veteran Seth Moulton writes: I'm a Marine. I carried guns every day in Iraq, guns very similar to the ones used to perpetrate the Orlando murders and many other mass shootings in America. But there's a big difference between a US Marine with a rifle and a civilian with a gun.
There Is No Place for Assault Weapons on US Streets! Civilians have no reason for owning assault weapons,
but Congress lacks the courage to stop them Hon. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) / The New York Daily News
(June 14, 2016) -- "My thoughts and prayers are with those in Orlando."
It's a hollow tradition following each mass shooting, and it has become routine: President Obama gives a speech, reminding us that living this way is a choice. The NRA releases a statement bemoaning the lack of guns at the shooting. And Congress sends their thoughts and prayers.
But the victims' families don't want our thoughts and prayers. They want our action, preferably before their loved ones are needlessly massacred.
We have chosen this reality. We have decided as a country that it is easier to periodically bury the innocent than to make tough decisions to address the actual cause of this modern, and uniquely American, scourge.
Before the killer's gun even stopped smoking, some rushed to blame "radical Islam."
Some disgusting individuals even celebrated the attack as a vindication of their repugnant, bigoted views. We do not yet know all of the facts surrounding this latest act of terror. But we do know that there is only one common factor linking every mass shooting: a gun.
I'm a Marine. I carried guns every day in Iraq, guns very similar to the ones used to perpetrate the Orlando murders and many other mass shootings in America. I've used guns in combat. On more than one occasion, guns have saved my life. But there's a big difference between a U.S. Marine with a rifle and a civilian with a gun.
I trained for years in order to use my weapon properly. And long before I ever aimed it at an individual, I had to look at pictures of dead and mangled bodies in order to understand the magnitude of what it meant to pull that trigger.
So believe me when I tell you: There's simply no reason for a civilian to own a military-style assault weapon. It's no different than why we outlaw civilian ownership of rockets and landmines.
Thankfully, Congress has the ability and authority to eliminate the civilian sale of these weapons of war. We have before, and we should again.
That's not all. Congress can prevent future tragedies by requiring a background check for every gun purchase in America. Congress can prevent people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns. And Congress can lift the restrictions on the study of the causes of gun violence, so that we can at the very least better understand why this keeps happening.
Most in Congress know this. They know that something is wrong in our country when massive murder sprees become routine. They simply lack the political courage to do something about it.
So, spare these innocent victims your thoughts and prayers. Instead, let's honor their memory by vowing to do everything we can to prevent another senseless slaughter.
Moulton, Clark Protest Congressional
Moment of Silence for Orlando Shooting Katie Mettler / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON (June 14, 2016) -- The speaker of the House clanged his hefty wooden gavel five deliberate times, then he paused and pursed his lips.
''Shhhhh. . .'' he hissed into the microphone, staring out across the packed floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Monday night.
It had been less than 48 hours since a Florida gunman -- armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a well of deranged hate -- opened fire on a crowded Orlando gay club early Sunday morning as hundreds of revelers danced inside. He killed 49 people and injured 53 others. The massacre left behind carnage unprecedented in U.S. mass shooting history.
More than Virginia Tech. More than Sandy Hook. More than Aurora or San Bernardino.
Which was why on Monday, as thousands gathered for vigils across the world, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., asked his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to participate once again in a ritual that -- like the mass shootings that inspire them -- feels all too familiar in America.
''The chair asks that the House now observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Orlando,'' Ryan said. As he crossed his chest and bowed his head, most of the chamber followed suit.
But a handful of Democrats walked out.
What followed the silence was an eruption of protest from Democratic representatives critical of Congress's inability to pass -- or on Monday even consider -- gun control legislation that has been proposed in the wake of an American mass shooting epidemic.
Democrats shouted ''Where's the bill?'' and ''No leadership!'' after Ryan silenced Democratic South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn's attempt to ask when gun legislation would be considered, reported the Associated Press.
Online, House Democrats were criticized for being ''disrespectful'' to victims and family members of the Orlando atrocity, for politicizing a gesture meant to symbolize peace and reflection.
''It's shameful that anyone would try to use a moment of silence honoring victims of a brutal terrorist attack to advance their own political agenda,'' Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told CBS News. In a tweet, she called the tactic ''disheartening.''
But the actions of the protesting Democrats speak to the mounting frustration that some in their party have expressed with each fresh American massacre -- and they echo the calls for change coming from the victims and their friends and family.
Since the rampage early Sunday, people on Twitter called for action and used the hashtags #Enough and #NoMoreSilence. Soon, #WheresTheBill was added to the mix.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., whose district borders Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed inside an elementary school in 2012, was the first to announce Monday afternoon that he would not show up for the moment of silence this time. He addressed the stance on the House floor, and said in a tweet, ''Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them.''
Himes called the ritual ''obnoxious expressions of smug incompetence'' in an interview with the Associated Press, and late Monday on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, he said in the immediate aftermath of the shooting he thought about how the inevitable moment of silence for the Orlando victims would be about the dozenth time in recent memory he'd make that ''dreary trudge'' to the House floor because of ''another mass slaughter.''
''And I got to thinking that this isn't a town square. It's not a church,'' he told Maddow. ''It's 535 people who with a day and a half of work [could pass] some bills around policies, which by the way a vast majority of Americans support.''
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., posted a similar pledge to her social media accounts. On Facebook, she wrote: ''If the LGBT community has taught us anything, it's that silence is the enemy of progress. I refuse to take part in a moment of silence by a Congress that takes part in empty gestures rather than do something -- anything -- that could actually prevent these horrific acts from happening. We can't reduce gun violence with silence.''
Later Monday night, another lawmaker from Massachusetts, Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, said he would no longer attend moments of silence for shooting victims either. ''Walked out of my first one tonight,'' Moulton tweeted.
On Sunday, Moulton had shared on social media that his ''thoughts and prayers'' were with the Orlando victims, drawing backlash from voters who said that gesture wasn't enough. After talking with his staff, he said on Twitter, he decided to align with Himes's stance.
These representatives aren't the first to boycott moments of silence after tragic gun violence. Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly, a Democrat, made the same pledge last December after a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.
''Another mass shooting, another moment of silence,'' Kelly told The Atlantic in December. ''I haven't stood [for a moment of silence] for a year. . . . I can't stand anymore. Some people may feel that's disrespectful, but I feel it's respectful to the victims and to their families. When is this gonna end? When are we gonna do more than stand? When are we going start taking action?''
On Monday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi remained on the floor for the moment of the silence, but later told reporters that her party had ''had enough'' of congressional inaction after mass shootings.
''The moment of silence is an act of respect, and we supported that,'' Pelosi told the AP. ''But it is not a license to do nothing.''
Note: The gunstore owner above insists the AR-15 is only to be used to shoot at targets, never at human beings.
But look at the targets on the wall behind him. Both show human targets.
(June 16, 2016) -- Seth Moulton is a 38-year-old freshman Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, but his youth and lack of seniority haven't prevented him from cutting a large profile on Capitol Hill.
A Harvard grad who joined the Marines and served four tours in Iraq -- and who refreshingly (and shockingly) has underplayed his military service, including the fact that he won a Bronze Star -- Moulton has already become one of his party's top foreign policy thinkers.
This week, after the attack in Orlando, he waded -- plunged, really -- into the gun-control debate, appearing on the front page of New York's Daily News with an op-ed calling for an assault-weapons ban. I recently spoke to Moulton about Orlando, ISIS, Trump, and whether he wants to be Hillary Clinton's running mate.
On Sunday, after the attack in Orlando, you posted a tweet offering your "thoughts and prayers," and then on Monday you walked off the House floor during the moment of silence for the victims of the shooting, later explaining that you won't attend another one ever again. What changed between that original tweet and your walking off the floor?
I heard from Americans. I heard from constituents who said that thoughts and prayers aren't enough; thoughts and prayers aren't working; we need to take action. I understand I'm one of the few members of Congress who does his own Twitter account, so I saw it right away. Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut was, I think, the first to say, "You know what, I'm just not even going to attend these moments of silence." And I thought that was a good statement.
Some people have said, "Well, that's disrespectful to the victims." I think what's disrespectful to the victims is refusing to even have a debate about passing reasonable reforms to prevent these mass shootings from happening.
When you walked out, did people know what you were doing? What was it like to be on the floor at that moment?
To be honest, most of the attention was around the Democrats who were shouting [at House Speaker Paul Ryan], "Where's the bill?! Where's the bill?!" I think it was a gesture that in some ways was more symbolic on social media. It was a little bit hard to see on the floor, but everybody now knows by my being willing to say that I'm not going to be there.
What's the response you've gotten from colleagues?
I think that Republicans are scared. Republicans are scared of the NRA. They're scared of the Tea Party. They're scared of their leadership that won't even allow a debate on this issue.
Some Democrats are scared of the NRA, too.
Some, that's true, but the overwhelming response from my Democratic colleagues has been "Go Seth, go!"
Do you have any hope that it's going to be different this time?
I do not have any confidence. I do not know how many more innocent Americans need to die before we come to our senses on this issue. In just my one term here, we've already had too many moments of silence to even count. But I do have hope, and that's why I'm going to keep fighting.
What needs to happen in Congress to get some legislation through? And what would be some measures that might draw bipartisan support?
First of all, it is absolutely absurd that someone who is deemed unsafe to get on an airplane is allowed to buy a gun in America. It's truly absurd. And the Republican critique is, "Well, there might be innocent people on the no-fly list." Look, if you don't trust the no-fly list, then why do you allow it for our airports? Maybe that has something to do with the fact that you fly home every weekend.
The second thing is universal background checks. It's also absurd that we could require universal background checks for some gun purchases but not for others. That's like saying if I go up to the airline ticket counter and purchase a ticket in person, I have to go through security, but if I buy the ticket online I just can bypass security.
And an assault-weapons ban would have prevented Omar Mateen from buying this gun in Florida.
In your op-ed this week in the New York Daily News you said that civilians have no business carrying one of the guns that you, as a Marine, carried in Iraq. You also wrote that before you were even allowed to fire a gun as a Marine, you were required to look at images of the carnage they caused. Can you tell me the story behind that?
I don't know if it's still standard practice, but when I went through the infantry officer course, we had to spend the night in the worst emergency room in Washington, D.C., and I saw multiple gunshot-wound victims, stab victims. And then also as part of training when we were deploying to Iraq with my platoon, I showed the Marines combat-trauma pictures from the Vietnam War so that they'd be prepared for what they might have to see.
Considering the ease with which some mass murderer can claim he or she was ISIS-inspired, do you ever wonder if we're giving ISIS too much credit?
Oh, absolutely, I think there's definitely evidence that that has happened in the past, but I just don't know the details here yet.
You've mentioned the threat of ISIS sending foreign fighters overseas. I saw a report that you're disappointed that, despite President Obama's goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, we've only taken in 2,805.
Absolutely. These are the people that ISIS is persecuting. There's nobody who knows the terror of ISIS better than these refugees. When we refuse to help the enemies of ISIS, we're empowering ISIS. We're aiding their recruitment. We're abetting their argument that America discriminates against people based on their religions, which is expressly prohibited in our Constitution.
How much damage do you think Donald Trump could do to America's image in the world and its national security not by even winning, but just by being on the campaign trail between now and November?
The last time I went overseas on an Armed Services Committee oversight trip, we went to Iraq, Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, and the number of foreign leaders -- leaders of our allies -- who spoke derisively about Trump was embarrassing. It was embarrassing as an American, even as someone who doesn't support Trump. And the things that he's saying are absolutely putting our troops at risk today.
Do you have any response to what he said on Tuesday night about accusing U.S. soldiers of stealing money in Iraq?
Donald Trump obviously knows nothing about what it's like to put your life on the line for your country. He's never risked his life for anything.
Venereal diseases don't really count, huh?
[Laughs] And the one thing that we can predict about Donald Trump is that he never will risk his life for anything, other than himself.
I saw the other day that on Meet the Press, the conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt --
So you know where I'm going with this. [Hewitt said on Meet the Press that, despite all the talk about Elizabeth Warren, the potential Hillary Clinton running mate he's most "worried about" is Moulton.]
[Laughs] I would cite Chuck Todd's response to Hugh Hewitt. [Todd told Hewitt, "I'd be shocked if that's it."]
Would you be interested in serving as Clinton's running mate?
I'm interested in serving the people of Massachusetts. I am a freshman congressman with a lot of work that I want to do for the people that I represent.
You're already good at the non-denial denial.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Jason Zengerle is GQ's political correspondent
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