Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave an emotional speech on the House floor Friday in response to the Dallas shooting that killed five police officers.
"A few perpetrators of evil do not represent us," he said. "They do not control us. The blame lies with the people who committed these vicious acts, and no one else."
Ryan also urged Americans and his fellow lawmakers not to "let anger harden our divisions" or "send us further into our corners."
"Every member of this body — every Republican and every Democrat — wants to see less gun violence," Ryan said. "Every member of this body wants a world in which people feel safe regardless of the color of their skin. And that’s not how people are feeling these days."
Calls for bipartisan unity aren’t uncommon in the wake of a national tragedy like this. But Ryan’s speech was particularly notable for acknowledging the racial justice concerns raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, and for praising the "values" that have driven protesters into the streets — especially during this "long week for our country," as Ryan put it.
"The values that brought those protesters to the streets in Dallas, the values that brought those protesters to the streets in Washington last night — respect, decency, compassion, humanity," Ryan said. "If we lose these fundamental things, what’s left?"
We need to "take a moment," he said, "for reflection, for thought, for prayer, for justice, for action."
Ryan’s reference to "justice" and "action" in this context is also noteworthy. Ryan and many other lawmakers have faced pointed criticism, especially in recent months, for offering their "thoughts and prayers" in the wake of mass shootings while refusing to take action.
This criticism came to a head when House Democrats refused to participate in a moment of silence on the floor, and later staged a 25-hour sit-in to demand a vote on gun violence legislation.
Ryan had promised a vote on an anti-terrorism package that included a gun control component before the August recess, but that vote has been delayed indefinitely due to Republican infighting. It remains to be seen whether the events in Dallas might do anything to change that, and what sort of "action" Ryan will push for going forward.
Ryan also offered condolences to the loved ones of the victims in Dallas.
"They wear the badge too," he said. "I know that to be a cop's wife or a cop's husband is to prepare for the worst, but who could have fathomed such horror as this?"