Jamaal Bowman says Congress is 'broken' after spat with Thomas Massie over Nashville shooting

"The whole country should be yelling and screaming," Bowman said.

March 30, 2023, 6:13 PM

Rep. Jamaal Bowman expanded Thursday on his prior outburst against Rep. Thomas Massie over gun violence, arguing more Americans "should be yelling and screaming" following the mass shooting in Nashville.

Bowman, who was a middle school principal prior to his election to Congress in 2020, argued the "broken" institution of Congress has failed to provide a remedy for the "sick society" that allows gun violence to occur regularly.

"We're a sick society," Bowman told reporters outside the Capitol. "We're the only developed nation where this happens, and we're sick because this institution (Congress) has been broken for so long."

"The whole country should be yelling and screaming and marching on these steps to make sure we pass legislation to do something about gun trafficking, assault rifles, and to bring some commonsense gun control," he added.

The New York Democrat was nearly as passionate as he was a day earlier when he first shouted at reporters to pressure Republicans to take action on gun reform. He said he believes Congress might address gun violence if the media pushed lawmakers "to do more."

PHOTO: Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks with reporters about gun violence and the need for gun control legislation outside the U.S. Capitol, March 30, 2023.
Rep. Jamaal Bowman speaks with reporters about gun violence and the need for gun control legislation outside the U.S. Capitol, March 30, 2023.
Francis Chung/politico/AP

"Push us to do more," he said. "The media is very important in the conversation."

Addressing more directly what transpired with Massie, Bowman said Thursday that gun violence is personal to him as a former educator.

"I stood in my cafeteria every day at the door just in case someone came in to shoot up my school," Bowman said.

Massie on Thursday tweeted a screenshot of a text message purportedly from an elementary school teacher voicing support to the Kentucky congressman for arming educators with guns.

PHOTO: Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., have a shouting match over gun violence outside the House chamber, March 29, 2023.
Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., have a shouting match over gun violence outside the House chamber, March 29, 2023.
Lalee Ibssa/ABC News

"Sometimes I hear: 'Teachers and administrators don't want to carry, and they aren't qualified.' The reality is it only takes a few individuals like this person (who just texted me) to keep our kids safe, primarily as a deterrent to the psychopaths who choose unprotected targets," he tweeted.

Bowman said he received calls from Texas, Kentucky and Florida after the video of him sounding off outside the House floor made waves on social media.

Asked whether he's spoken with Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who was tapping Bowman on his back during the incident with Massie in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, Bowman said he didn't realize Hoyer was trying to get his attention.

"The thing I love about Dem leadership [is that] they allow me to be me," he said.

As members of Congress exited the House floor on Wednesday, Bowman began screaming about the need for legislative solutions. While most lawmakers shuffled past, Massie stopped and engaged.

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

"I'm talking about gun violence," Bowman responded.

"You know there's never been a school shooting in a school that allows teachers to carry," Massie tried to argue.

"Carry guns! You think-- More guns lead to more death!" Bowman retorted.

Massie repeatedly asked Bowman to calm down, to which the Democrat replied, "Calm down? Children are dying! Nine-year-old children!" and "I was screaming before you came and interrupted me."

Gun reforms are expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate. The current makeup of the upper chamber means 10 Republicans would likely need to join all Democrats to overcome the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster of the legislation.

Calls to abolish the filibuster to shepherd contentious bills through a polarized Congress have gained the support of many Democrats -- including Bowman.

"Are we going to abolish the filibuster to pass gun reform?" Bowman asked. "We should."

On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dodged reporters' questions about what information Republicans need to gather on the Nashville shooting before deciding whether to consider new gun safety legislation.

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