Lawmakers touched by gun violence celebrate bipartisan bill: ‘The NRA no longer has authority’

Gun Rights

Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia walked off the Senate floor with both fists raised in the air after the upper chamber passed a bipartisan gun bill late Thursday evening.

“I can’t put into words how important this day is to so many communities and so many future generations and so many gun violence survivors and victims that have been waiting and waiting for so long for Congress to act”, she told The Independent.

Similarly, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly was pleased with the legislation he and his fellow Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema helped negotiate.

“Sometimes it takes a while for us to come together to do something positive but it’s a perfect example of something bipartisan, that really makes a difference”, he told The Independent.

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But it’s a moment neither likely wishes they never had to witness and certainly neither expected they’d experience in the halls of Congress. Their stories are different but weaved together by gun violence: Ms McBath, a Black woman who had her heart ripped out when a white man slayed her son; Mr Kelly, a low-key white former astronaut who nearly lost the love of his life more than a decade ago.

On 23 November 2012, Michael Dunn shot and killed McBath’s son Jordan Davis, who was 17 at the time, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida over an altercation about how loud Mr Davis’s music was. Earlier this month, at a House markup of gun legislation, she described the pain she experienced as a mother learning her son died when discussing parents who learned that their children were among the 19 that a gunman in Uvalde, Texas killed at Robb Elementary School.

“Parents across the country know that phone call. It’s a sucker punch to my stomach every time I learn there’s another phone call”, she said, before describing the questions that race through a parents’ head when they learn a bullet killed them.

“Was my child afraid? Did he feel the pain as the bullets ripped through his skin?” she said. “How long did it take him to die? Was it quick or did he suffer?”

Ms McBath in turn made combating gun violence activism her life’s work. She became the spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In 2016, when then-President Barack Obama shed tears while talking about the failure to pass gun legislation in 2016, Ms McBath was literally standing right behind him.

In 2018, Ms McBath did what a baby-faced kid named Jon Ossoff couldn’t do in 2017 and flipped Georgia’s 6th district as part of the blue wave that swept in tons of Democratic women. Last month, she won her primary after she switched districts. Earlier in the evening, she waited under the Rotunda of the Capitol for the Senate to cast its vote.

When asked what this meant to her, Ms McBath sounded hopeful.

“Anything that is a deterrant, anything that prevents people from unnecessarily being maimed or hurt, or unnecessary gun violence is a win”, she said.

For his part, Mr Kelly’s life was changed forever in 2011. A former astronaut, Mr Kelly was sent back down to earth when his wife, then-Representative Gabrielle Giffords was holding a constituent event in Tucson when a gunman killed six people and shot Ms Giffords in the head.

In the subsequent months, Ms Giffords resigned from Congress to focus on her recovery, while she and her husband embarked on a second career as vocal advocates to combat gun violence. In 2020, Mr Kelly beat Martha McSally the same night that President Joe Biden won Arizona. Incidentally, 10 years to the week, his life was threatened when insurrectionists raided the Capitol.

After the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Mr Kelly was one of the bipartisan group of 20 Senators who helped negotiate the final package. Mr Kelly is up for reelection this year in one of the toughest and most widely-watched races in the country. Now, he will both campaign on–and have to defend–his work on the legislation.

The bill will now head to the House of Representatives, where Ms McBath will have a chance to vote for it. She acknowledged that it will not be a panacea but a good start.

“But this is a new beginning”, she said. “It’s a good beginning. And it shows that the NRA gun lobby no longer has the authority that they believe that they’ve had, that the American people are standing up, no longer they understand by being in fear in their own communities, in their schools, in their churches, in the grocery stores. Enough is enough.”

Mr Kelly said for his part that he talked to his wife earlier in the day.

“She’s, she’s very excited’, he said. “This is gonna save people’s lives.”

The Senate finished its business for the week and Mr Kelly will soon have a chance to see his wife.

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