Will Dallas Ambush Push Republicans To Act On Gun Control Legislation?
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
At the NATO summit in Poland, President Obama held a news conference to address the recent violence here at home. He said that part of the current tension between police and the communities they serve is because of the prevalence of guns in our culture.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you care about the safety of our police officers, then you can't set aside the gun issue and pretend that that's irrelevant.
MARTIN: Efforts to pass gun control measures have gone nowhere. On Friday, Democratic congressman of Georgia, John Lewis, joined the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus in a press conference demanding legislative action to try to reduce gun violence. Congressman Lewis led an emotional sit-in last month on the House floor to demand the same. He joins me now on the line. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.
JOHN LEWIS: Thank you very much for having me this morning.
MARTIN: Do the events of the past week change the debate on gun control at all?
LEWIS: I think the events of the past few days - past week, only gave greater need that we pass comprehensive gun legislation to stop the violence, to stop the killing, for too many of our children, too many of our mothers and fathers, have lost their life because of gun violence. And now we see these wonderful police officers being murdered because of guns.
MARTIN: As you referenced, the sniper attack in Dallas left five police officers dead. Have you received any sign of movement from Republicans since the protest on Thursday, since the death of those officers?
LEWIS: There are some Republicans that are talking, and we will continue to talk. I think there will be a greater resolve for us to come together as one Congress and act. We must act. The American people are demanding that we act, both Democrats and Republicans together.
MARTIN: The House leadership wasn't happy about the sit-in you organized, to say the least. Speaker Paul Ryan has called for punitive measures against you because of that. If House Republicans don't allow the measures to come to a vote, what do you do? What other action can you take?
LEWIS: Well, you know, I come from the early days of the civil rights movement, and when we saw something that was not right, not fair, not just, we spoke up. We spoke out. And we acted. We engaged in non-violent sit-ins at lunch counters. We went on the Freedom Rides. We marched. We were beaten. We were left bloody. We were arrested and jailed, but we never gave up. And in this whole effort, we will not give up or give in. This will go on and on. We made progress, and we will continue to make progress. But we must resolve this problem once for all.
MARTIN: When you sit down with your Republican colleagues - because we should mention, at that press conference led by the Congressional Black Caucus, I mean, the leader of that group pointed the finger directly at your Republican colleagues and had some pretty harsh words about them and how their inaction affects minorities in this country. When you sit down with your Republican colleagues, what do you say to them? What's the tone of those conversations? And how are you trying to change minds?
LEWIS: But we talk, and we will continue to talk and try to move people along to educate, to sensitize and say this is the right thing to do. The great majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, 85 - 90 percent want us to act. And now is the time to act.
MARTIN: John Lewis is a congressman from Georgia. We've been talking to him about his efforts to pass gun control legislation. Congressman Lewis, thank you so much for your time.
LEWIS: But thank you.
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