WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8), Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (MA-5), and moms in the House Democratic Caucus called on the House Republican Majority to bring a vote on gun violence prevention legislation to the House Floor. Below is a transcript of their remarks:
Whip Clark: The attack in Nashville marked the 130th mass shooting of the year. That’s not just a tragedy. It’s a choice – it’s a choice that puts guns over our children.
As moms and elected officials, we share a fundamental responsibility: to keep our children safe. Yet before the families of Nashville victims could even bury their loved ones – their 9-year-old children – we heard the same tired excuses for GOP inaction.
If you are prioritizing the sale of AR-15s over the lives of our children, if you are putting the demands of the gun lobby over the safety of our families, if you are trying to hide behind responsible gun owners rather than act to keep dangerous people from mowing down our kids, then what are you doing in Congress?
House Democrats will not allow this vile cynicism to pass for solutions.
The least the MAGA Majority can do is have the courage to show parents where they stand. Give us a vote on the assault weapons. Give us a vote on background checks. Bring it to the Floor. Put yourself on record. Show the American people your priorities.
Is it our kids or is it guns?
And now, it is my privilege to yield to a colleague who’s always made her priorities crystal clear, an unrivaled champion for gun safety, a voice for parents across this country: Congresswoman Lucy McBath.
Rep. McBath: Good morning. As a survivor of gun violence, today, we stand on these steps mourning the murder our children once again and again and again and again.
America is an ideal. It is the notion that the days of our children will be better than our own. It's the idea that hard work, education and love for your neighbor will give every family a chance at the American dream.
Why, then, have we not made good on our promise as a nation? A promise that our kids can laugh and learn and play in their schools without the fear of a shoot out? We should not need sandbags in our schools to protect our kids. We should not need bunkers in their school bathrooms to keep them safe. Our children should not be forced to live in a war zone where bullets may murder a classmate at a moment's notice.
What will it take? How much blood must be spilled? How many children must be killed until we do the right thing? Congress has lost its way. We have lost our soul. Our job is to protect our communities and we must do better than this. Right now there are parents out there scared to death of sending their children to school. Scared to death that they'll receive texts from their children locked inside a school that say: Mom, if I don't make it. I love you and I appreciate everything that you've done for me.
This is not who we are as Americans, and it's not who we should become. We can solve this. Weapons of war don't belong on our streets. And I ask, how many children must die before we learn that?
And at this time, it's my great distinct honor to introduce to you here the leader of the Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries.
Leader Jeffries: Thank you. Representative McBath.
We gather here today, on the steps of the Capitol, standing in solidarity with another community that has fallen victim to a tragic mass shooting in America. Standing in solidarity with the families and the children and the community of Nashville, Tennessee.
We gather here today with a heavy heart that another community in America has had to deal with a tragic mass shooting. We gather here today not simply as elected officials and members of Congress, but more importantly as moms, as parents, as Americans, demanding that House Republicans put People Over Politics and put Kids Over Guns here in America.
There is no excuse to allow our streets to be flooded with weapons of war that are not being used to hunt deer. They're being used to hunt human beings and to slaughter children. And so we're demanding that Congress act because the level of gun violence in this country is unacceptable. It's unconscionable and it's un-American.
And I'm thankful for the leadership of the moms of this Congress who are here today to declare that enough is enough. We need gun safety action and we need it now.
Rep. Chu: On the eve of Lunar New Year in January, a gunman entered the Star Ballroom Dance studio in Monterey Park, California, my hometown of 37 years. He was armed with a semi-automatic assault pistol and an extended magazine. In a spraying motion, he shot 42 times at the innocent people inside within minutes murdering 11 people and injuring 9 others.
In the wake of this traumatic event, when we should have been joyfully celebrating a new year, the Asian-American community was reeling with grief and loss. And now in Nashville, three nine year olds and three adults are dead. And yet another mass shooting.
I say enough is enough. We need our Republican colleagues to hear the pleas from constituents and law enforcement in their own districts. We need action. We need universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. We need governments at every level to ensure communities have equal access to gun safety and prevention strategies like ‘red flag’ laws so we can keep guns out of the hands of those engaging in violent attacks.
I agree with Brandon Tsay, the hero who disarmed the shooter when he tried to go to a second location. He knew when he saw that shooter, the weapon was not felt and customized, was customized for robbing the studio. He knew the shooter was looking to kill and inflict as much harm as possible.
So House Republicans, where are you on our community safety? Weapons of war have no place in our streets. Let's get to work to make safety a reality in this country.
And now I would like to yield to an outstanding colleague from El Paso, Texas, Congressmember Veronica Escobar.
Rep. Escobar: Buenas tardes. Good afternoon, everyone.
On August 3rd, 2019, as children were shopping for school supplies with their parents, as soccer teams were fundraising for their soccer tournaments outside of a Walmart in El Paso, as elderly residents were getting their prescriptions filled at the Walmart in El Paso, a shooter who had driven over 10 hours away from Texas arrived in El Paso and walked in with an assault style weapon. A shooter who was motivated by hate embarked on what was the deadliest targeted attack on Latinos in modern American history.
Within a matter of a few minutes, he slaughtered dozens of people. He injured dozens more. Every single person in my community of El Paso, Texas – a loving, good hearted community of kindness and goodwill – every single member of my community is a victim and survivor of gun violence because of what we lived through. And on that horrible day, we joined what has been a growing, terrible, tragic club in America of communities that have faced these needless, senseless, horrible tragedies.
Just the other day, one of my colleagues stood on this step – a Republican colleague – and when asked about the Nashville shooting, his response was: ‘We're not going to fix this.’
We're not going to fix this.
I want you all to remember the photograph, if you haven't seen it, I hope you see it. A photograph of a Nashville little girl inside a school bus, weeping, sobbing, her face filled with pain and trauma. And that member of Congress – that Republican member of Congress and his entire conference – are telling that family and that little girl: ‘We're not going to fix this.’
Well, guess what? We have to fix it. It is our job to fix it. It is our obligation to fix it. House Democrats have acted over and over and over again to pass legislation to fix this. If not now, when?
And to my Republican colleagues who refuse to act. If you don't want to get to work, get out of the way so that the rest of us can.
Enough is enough. And we are calling on our colleagues to bring those bills to the floor now and to provide safety and relief to Americans who are demanding it.
Thank you, my friends. I'd like to introduce a tremendous new member of our Caucus, Representative Hilary Scholten.
Rep. Scholten: Thank you for joining us here today. I stand here today as the mother of two school aged children. Tragedy has struck again and taken from us three precious young little lives while they were trying to learn. This is on top of so many other acts of senseless violence in our schools. How much longer?
Michigan State University. Uvalde, Texas. Sandy Hook. Oxford. Virginia Tech. Marjory Stoneman Douglas and countless other schools carry the scars of trauma with them for the rest of their lives, their families and friends and surrounding communities will too.
The problem of school shootings is a uniquely American problem. Literally no other country on earth has this problem to the extent that we do. The United States has 57 times more school shootings than any other industrialized nation. Between 2008 and 2018, the United States experienced almost 300 school shootings, far more than any other nation in the world. In that same time period, Canada had two, and the United Kingdom had none. The entire next generation of Americans is being traumatized by this epidemic of gun violence.
Since my kids were in preschool, my James, my Wesley, gun violence was always their problem. They were the ones that had to deal with the reality of active shooter drills and actual lockdowns. I believe that it is beyond time that the grown ups in the room, all of us standing here today, make gun violence and preventing gun violence our problem.
That's why we're here today. When I heard about the Covenant shooting, like so many other mothers, I wanted nothing more than to hold my ten year old – just give him a hug. I didn't get to, though, but not because he was ripped apart by the bullets of an AR 15, but because I was here ready to do the work to make sure that no other parent has to experience the pain that Lucy – the parents of Evelyn, Halle, and William have had to experience.
We have to step up. I'm here today because I'm ready for a new reality. I'm ready for a world where classrooms aren't killing fields, where our children don't have to go to school every day fearing for their lives. This reality is possible. We all can do something about it. That's why I'm here. That's what I'm here to do.
To James, to Wesley, to all the other school kids out here, I'm here for you. And I'm ready to fight like a mother to keep you safe in your schools.
Rep. Omar: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. I'm here as Deputy Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and as a mother of four. As an American, I'm heartbroken. As a mom, I'm outraged. As a legislator, I am ashamed at the lack of the political will to keep our kids safe from our Republican colleagues.
Why is it that, as a mom in the United States of America, I have to worry every single day whether my ten year old daughter will be shot in her classroom the same way I worried about my own safety when I lived in a warzone. And why is it that our Republican colleagues continue to lie and pretend we can't do anything about it?
When we saw that car accidents were taking lives, we required seat belts to save lives. When we saw that people were dying from drug overdoses, we passed laws to save lives. Why is it that when it comes to guns, Republicans throw their hands up and say we can do anything, let's continue to pray. As a person of faith, I believe in prayer, but we are also asked by God to take action.
It doesn't make sense unless you look at their campaign donations, because since 1990, the National Rifle Association has spent $24 million on campaign contributions and another $150 million on outside spending, almost all going to Republicans. And during the same period of time, we gutted the gun safety measures, like the assault weapon ban, that helped keep our communities safe.
So I say to my Republican colleagues, stop listening to your corrupt campaign donors. Don't let any more of our children get killed. Give us a vote on a common sense gun reform and show American parents where we are. The time is now.
Rep. Craig: My name is Angie Craig, and I represent Minnesota's Second Congressional District, and this has truly been a stunning last couple of weeks in the United States Congress. I've heard a lot of talk over these past two weeks for my Republican colleagues about what they think is best for our students, our parents and our teachers.
They say we need to ban certain books from classrooms and that will somehow keep our children safe. They say we need to pick and choose which students can get the mental health care they need, and that will somehow keep our children safe. As a mother of four sons and a grandmother of one, I have some questions for my Republican colleagues who are so concerned about our children's safety.
How many more children have to be murdered in their classrooms before you'll even contemplate banning assault weapons instead of books? How many more parents need to worry when they drop their children off at school before you'll start to support a background check on gun sales? How many more teachers need to lead their students through active shooter drills before you will ask Congress to help us stop the carnage.
They want you to think that this is an either or issue, that we either have basic American rights and freedoms, or we have nothing. But that's not that's not how it is. There are extremes that we're talking about. This is about common sense reforms, like the majority of Americans, including many responsible gun owners like myself.
We can have the Second Amendment that allowed me last weekend to go trapshooting, and we can take away assault weapons of war from our streets in America. But the difference between my colleagues standing behind me here today and my colleagues in the Republican Party is that the Republicans are willing to sit back and let it continue to happen.
And until they're willing to stop kids from getting murdered in their classrooms, I don't want to hear another damn word from them about keeping our schools or our communities safe. Not one more word. We have failed my kids' generation in this country over the past 25 years. We cannot fail my grandsons and I will not stop until we make that happen.
Rep. Frankel: Well, I chair a caucus that is full of mothers and grandmothers like myself. And I want to just thank the dads here, the great fathers that are here with us. Look, we're here standing up for our kids over guns - the number one killer, the number one killer of our youth.
And first, I want to say, like everyone here, that my heart aches for the people of Nashville, the searing pain being felt by the parents, the grandparents, the spouses and the friends is unimaginable for most. Once again, the act of a disturbed shooter with an automatic weapon has severely and inalterably changed the lives of innocent people. When I learned of the horror in Tennessee as a Floridian, well, I will say this, like most I wanted to hug my grandchildren.
As a Floridian, I immediately was reminded of the tragedy in Parkland five years ago that took the lives of 17 children and teachers and left countless folks scarred for life. Now listen to this. Shockingly, since Parkland, there have been more than 2,700 mass shootings in this country, leaving grieving families. And every day Americans are afraid to go to parades and whether their kiss goodbye to their child as they get on their school bus will be the last kiss that they give them.
You know, I remember just after the Parkland shooting, I visited a family where a first grader, she had just returned home from her first day in school and her mother said, how was school today? And she said, it was terrible. And the mother said, why was it terrible? She said, they made me sit at the desk near the door.
Think about that. My son Ben, who is the father of my grandchildren, was an artillery officer in the United States Marines and he will be the first to tell you that we don't need a military style weapons on the streets of America. So I am so proud to echo my Democratic colleagues in asking the Republicans actually to join us on gun violence legislation and say again, enough is enough. And I'll tell you what, I'll fight like hell as a grandmother to get that done.
Whip Clark: Thank you to all our House Democrats for speaking out today. Thank you to our inspiring advocates for joining us. And I want to thank everyone standing in solidarity, especially our leadership team, that in 117th brought us the first gun safety legislation in 30 years - Speaker Emerita Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and our Assistant Leader, Jim Clyburn.
I want to thank Congressman Mike Thompson and David Cicilline for being leaders on the legislation. And of course, Leader Jeffries and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar for helping us always put kids over guns, put people over politics. Thank you.
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