One California member of Congress will no longer stand on the House floor to pay tribute to mass shooting victims. The day after the horrific attack in San Bernardino, Rep. Jackie Speier says she'll boycott the congressional chamber or stay seated instead.
"I'm not going to stand up for a moment of silence again and then watch us do nothing. It's hypocritical and it speaks to our impotence that we think that it's good enough to just take out one minute and pray for the lives," the Hillsborough Democrat said. "The families of those who have died don't want our one minute of silence. They want some assurance that this kind of conduct is not going to be sanctioned in this country moving forward.
"I've had it. I have had it with inaction. I've had it with the sense that it's OK that we not act," Speier said, pounding her hand against her leg as she spoke. Speier was shot five times while on a congressional fact-finding mission into the People's Temple in Jonestown in 1978.
The slayings at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Wednesday killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.
The area's congressman, Pete Aguilar, went directly to the emergency command center when his plane from Washington landed Wednesday night, his staff said. The Redlands Democrat spent Thursday attending briefings and community meetings and visiting victims at the Loma Linda University Medical Center. He also was scheduled to attend a candlelight vigil at San Manuel Stadium.
On Friday, Aguilar will lay flowers at the memorial site and is scheduled to attend several local religious services, including an interfaith prayer meeting at the Islamic Center of Redlands.
"There are no words to accurately convey the heartbreak I feel for my friends and neighbors as we reel from this attack," he said in a statement Thursday. "We need to acknowledge what happened yesterday for what it was: an act of terror. How many more times will we weep with our neighbors and fellow Americans while our communities are terrorized by the ongoing gun violence epidemic in this country? When will we say enough is enough?"
Several Democrats in California's House delegation expressed frustration Thursday that the House has paused to recognize American shooting victims — five times so far in 2015, according to the Congressional Record — but hasn't voted on legislation to address the massacres. None of the lawmakers who spoke with The Times joined Speier's pledge of refusing to stand.
"The tragedies continue and the Congress does nothing … and shame on the Congress," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park). "To say over and over and over again, 'You have our thoughts and prayers,' doesn't seem very sincere to me anymore."
Asked what has to change in Congress for members to act, Eshoo took a long pause.
"Members go through their thoughts and their prayers, and decide to do something for the American people, and not the NRA," she eventually said.
The House has stood silent for the nine people killed at a church in Charleston, S.C.; two killed in a movie theater in Lafayette, La.; nine killed at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., and five service members killed in Chattanooga, Tenn. The most recent moment of silence was Tuesday, recognizing three people killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., the day after Thanksgiving.
"You're just looking around the House floor wondering whose district will be next, and I didn't expect that it would be Pete Aguilar," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) said Wednesday. "It could be a Republican, it could be a Democrat, it could be East Coast or West Coast, but it will be someone. Pete won't be the last one to stand on the House floor and ask people to honor people in his congressional district. We should have the courage to actually do something."
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) said it's too soon to know whether changes are needed following the San Bernardino shooting, but he's satisfied with the country's gun laws.
"I don't believe Congress should ever have a knee-jerk reaction on something," he said. "This is something we need to get all of the facts out; if this certainly was a terrorist activity we need to take a look at not only how this started, and the emphasis on this certain location, but we also need to continue to take a look at our visas."
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) cited the fluidity of the situation in demurring.
"I'm not sure yet. I'm not going to get into that sort of speculation, not until we know what's going on," Valadao said.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) said the focus right now should be on grieving families, not what Congress can or should do.
"We feel really bad when anybody loses their life in a violent way, so we're really thinking more of the families than government policy," he said. "There are regular people whose lives are being torn apart and that's what we need to be thinking about."
Rohrabacher said bad people do bad things regardless of law: "I know some people want to just blame guns for these deaths." He suggested the death toll might have been fewer had others in the room been armed.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) said Thursday that talk of policy could wait a day or two.
"Now is the time for sorrow and concern for the families. There will be plenty of time to talk about our gun-control policies and a host of other legislative things, but that is for some other day," Sherman said. "We want to do our work as soon as possible, but today is a day for mourning."
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Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics
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