As the world continues to respond to the deadliest mass shooting in American history, one congressman is skipping out on prayer.
On Sunday night, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) tweeted that he would “not attend one more ‘Moment of Silence’ on the floor [of Congress],” noting that silence “does not honor the victims, it mocks them.”
Minutes later, Himes added that “Moments of Silence in the House have become an abomination,” and that silence is not the way you keep the nation safe. “God will ask you, ‘How did you keep my children safe’?”
Silence, to Himes, is not the answer.
Following the Orlando mass shooting that killed and injured a combined 100-plus people, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for a moment of silence to “honor the victims.”
However, Himes remained resolute in not partaking in the event, taking to the House floor that afternoon to assail Congress for what he called a “fetish” for silence:
“Silence. That is how the leadership of the most powerful country in the world will respond to this week’s massacre of its citizens…[lives] cut short by this Congress’ fetish to repeatedly meet bloody tragedy with silence. Silence. That is what we offer an America that supports many of the things we could do to slow the bloodbath.
Silence. Not me. Not anymore. I will no longer stand here absorbing the faux concern, contrived gravity and tepid smugness of a House complicit in the weekly bloodshed. Sooner or later, the country will hold us accountable for our inaction. But as you bow your head think of what you will say to your God when you are asked what you did to slow the slaughter of the innocents. Silence.”
Himes is not alone in protesting Congress’ clarion calls for silence. Several Democrats walked out of Monday’s moment of silence. Others disrupted the event with speech. Moments after House Speaker Paul Ryan held a moment of silence for the 49 dead following the Orlando shooting, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) attempted to ask Ryan where the bill was to curb future gun violence. Ryan ruled his question out of order.
Public reaction to Himes’ comments has been predictably divided: Conservative outlets such as the Daily Caller said Himes was “making [the shooting] all about him,” while his fans on Twitter have hailed him a “true patriot.”
Regardless of received criticism or praise, Himes thinks that policy change — not prayer — is the only way to do right for the dead.
The Connecticut Congressman’s district is adjacent to Newtown, where 20 first graders and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Following the massacre, Himes told Esquire that Connecticut took the right steps to pass “some thoughtful gun safety rules,” but that “at the end of the day, when you can be in Virginia at one o’clock and Connecticut at four o’clock, you got to deal with the federal level.”
Himes, who says he supports the Second Amendment and enjoys recreational shooting, added in his Esquire interview that while the NRA has “used the Tea Party movement to create a kind of a cult of guns,” there are relatively simple solutions that can curb gun violence and have popular public support.
“This isn’t that complicated,” Himes told Esquire. “As much as there are things like limits on capacity of magazines, the kinds of guns, universal background checks, there are four or five things that have broad support in the American population.”
“Are they going to end gun violence? Of course not. But if this crazy, radicalized guy hadn’t been so able to go buy a military weapon, despite the fact that he’d been interviewed a couple of times by the FBI, I think a lot of people would be alive this morning. We’re not going to solve this thing, but we can do some things that a lot of people support that can save lives.”
Next, learn about the gun control facts we need to stop getting wrong.