South Florida Sun Sentinel: Pelosi promises Stoneman Douglas survivors: Universal background checks will be top priority if Democrats win the House
October 17, 2018
By: Dan Sweeney
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promised South Florida gun-control activists that universal background checks would be among Democrats’ top priorities if the party wins control of the House in the midterm elections.
Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-West Boca, met with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, local members of the national gun-control group Moms Demand Action and fathers Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg, whose children were among the 17 killed in the massacre at the Parkland school.
Oliver asked Pelosi whether she had children, she told him that she had five, along with nine grandchildren.
“Now I have to save your kids,” he told her, “because it’s too late to save mine.”
Universal background checks would close the so-called “gun show loophole.”
Right now, firearm sales from a federally licensed dealer require a background check, but private sales between individuals — for example, if someone wanted to sell a gun to a family member or neighbor — don’t require a check. This has given rise to a proliferation of firearms sellers at gun shows or online who operate under the rationale that they are selling from a private collection and so do not require background checks.
“A common misconception that a lot of people have is that Democrats want gun control and Republicans don’t,” said Alfonso Calderon, a student at Stoneman Douglas whose activism has led him to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. “Universal background checks and other bills of that matter are three votes, five votes away from being passed in the House.”
One by one, the students, victims’ family members and activists told Pelosi how the shooting had changed their lives. Fifteen-year-old Sarah Stricker was the last to speak, having been unable to find the right words earlier. She was in Building 1200 where the shooting occurred. Her right knee bounced up and down while the others spoke.
“I heard my friends screaming in the hallway for their lives. I heard the kids next door to me screaming for their lives. And across the hall from me. And in the stairs above me. And I can’t get them back. I can’t change what happened,” said the high school sophomore. “And earlier you asked Mr. Guttenberg and Mr. Oliver how they keep going, but I’m never asked that. All I’m ever asked is, How are you? How is everything going? I don’t know what keeps me going. The only thing I’m doing is surviving. I can’t do anything else.”
Stricker broke down sobbing. Guttenberg put his arm around her shoulders. They had just met that day. Deutch had to compose himself a moment before thanking Pelosi for coming to Coral Springs City Hall.
“The people will want us to consider what this bill will look like. We have a bill right now that is bipartisan,” Pelosi said afterward. “This will be a collaboration and will be a consensus to have the bipartisanship we need to build on the legislation.”
Pelosi said she personally supported an assault-weapon ban, but that universal background checks were not only more politically feasible but also “what saves the most lives is the background checks — keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, whatever the weaponry.”