Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Speaker Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Calling on GOP Senate to Vote on House-Passed Gun Violence Prevention Bills

November 20, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Mike Thompson and other House Democrats for a press event calling on the Republican Senate to pass bipartisan background checks legislation, which the House passed 266 days ago.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone. 

Here we are: 266 days since the House of Representatives passed our bills, H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112, responsible, commonsense gun violence prevention legislation; an expansion of the background check legislation.

We’re going to take this poster over to Leader McConnell.  He keeps saying we’re not doing anything over here but impeachment.  No.  We have 275 bills on his desk right now that were bipartisan when they passed the House of Representatives.  Nearly 300 bills, bipartisan, on his desk.  Many more bills passed, but of those that are bipartisan.

So, he has not been – he has called himself the ‘Grim Reaper.’  Well, he apparently is that in more ways than one, because in the 266 days since we sent this bill, about 25,000 people have died from gun violence in our country, 47 percent of them teenagers or children younger than that.

We want him to give us a vote.  90 percent of the American people support background checks legislation.  I’ve conveyed that message personally to the President of the United States.  Leader Schumer and I did so when it was 200 days.  I did so recently on a call with the President, again.

This is a solution that will save lives.  While many of the of the other bills are important, this one – every day it is not passed and signed by the President, lives are lost. 

So, I’m pleased to be joined by many of our colleagues here, and I’m going to yield to one of them now.  Mike Thompson is the Chair of our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  He will give his credentials, but I am very proud of the work that he has done and I yield to him.

He and the others will be joining us, as we walk this reminder over to Leader McConnell’s that his political survival – Mr. Leader, your political survival is not as important as the survival of our children. 

Mr. Thompson.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Imagine the courage of our colleague, Congresswoman  McBath to turn her personal grief into fighting to save other lives; to run for Congress, which is not for the faint of heart; to win; to come here and lead us in this priority for our country, to save the lives of the American people, our children.  Thank you, Congresswoman McBath, for your courage.

I thank Congresswoman Kelly for bringing forth the idea that, while Mr. Thompson talked about how many mass killings and that is an incredible number, incredible number, but every day on the streets of our communities, peoples’ lives are lost. 

Mr. Deutch, just seeing a new generation of young people march for their lives and our lives, the lives of our children.  Thank you for that present – for your presentation. 

And Mr. Thompson has been our champion through all of this.  He’s been on both sides of a gun as a warrior protecting our country and now, to protect our children in the Congress of the United States.

We’re also joined by the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congresswoman Katherine Clark.  We’re joined by a Member of the Appropriations Committee also from Florida, as is Mr. Deutch, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  We’re joined by the Chair of the Asian Pacific Caucus, Congresswoman Judy Chu of California.

And, I want to just show this bracelet that was given to me by Frederica Wilson of Florida: this is a bullet.  It’s a bullet.  And I’ve showed this to many Members of Congress on the other side of the aisle, on the other side of the Capitol.  It’s a constant reminder of the priority that we give to this issue, that we are not going away until this job is done.

We’ve seen the courage of Lucy McBath – would that Mitch McConnell have a modicum of courage to take up this bill.  We’re going to bring this with his face on it.  How can he look at himself in the mirror, knowing that his inaction is causing the loss of life.  And, as Mr. Thompson said, it doesn’t mean that we would save all of the lives, but any number of them is – it would be necessary for them to pass this legislation.

So I thank my colleagues for joining us, we have the full – this was a – these were bipartisan bills that were sent over to the Senate.  We believe that if he gave us a vote, we would have bipartisan support in the Senate, because 90 percent of the American people support gun violence protection.

With that, we’ll be pleased to take any questions.

***

Q: You talk about the high priority on this issue.  Back on August 5th, the President tweeted ‘Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks.’  Can you talk to us about when was the last time that you or anyone in your Caucus engaged with the President?  Was he willing to engage with you on good faith to try and move this issue forward?  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well the good faith part might be tricky, from that standpoint, but the last conversation that I had directly with the President on this subject was on September 24.  Was it Tuesday morning?  He called me to tell me of all the great progress that was being made in a bipartisan way to pass gun violence protection.

He knows what a priority it is for me.  He knew that would get my attention early that Tuesday morning.  I said, ‘Mr. President, I don’t know of any bipartisan progress that is being made.  I’d be eager to hear what it is.’ 

And I said 90 percent of the American people support this legislation.  Let’s just go forward with that.  There is a solution.  It is bipartisan.  It is supported by the public.  It’s just an expansion of what is here now, except a life-saving expansion.

So – and – I did say what are you, Mr. 10 percent?  10 percent. 

Well, there are other people who think differently.

Well, 10 percent?  10 percent are going to drive what saves lives for the American people?

He then wanted to tell me how perfect his phone call was, with the President of Ukraine, and I said it was perfectly wrong.

Q:  Madam Speaker –

Speaker Pelosi.  That would be September 24th.  I reminded him how many days had gone by and how many lives had been lost because of his inaction and because Mitch won’t move unless he moves.

Q:  Madam Speaker have you talked to –

Speaker Pelosi.  Have any of you all spoken to the President about this or in good faith any conversations?

Members.  No.

Q:  Madam Speaker have you talked to Senator Toomey at all and tried – he had an op-ed this week I think saying that he was ready to do something on background checks.  Is there any way to –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well he should just talk to his Leader, and have them bring up a bill.  The bill is there.  It is bipartisan.  It is focused. 

Just to remind – Mr. Thompson will you say exactly how it expands, because – they’re tried of hearing my voice, I think.

Chairman Thompson.  The bill that we passed would require that any transfer of a firearm would be accompanied by a background check to ensure that the person obtaining the firearm is not a danger to themselves or others

As the Speaker said, it’s bipartisan, it had bipartisan cosponsors and it had bipartisan – a bipartisan vote when it passed the House.

And it’s over in the Senate sitting on his desk, and I’ll just reiterate what everyone else has said; it’s time for him to do his job.  Take this bill up.  It will save lives.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz.  Look, the President is afraid this will pass.  You know, he’s good at – in the aftermath of a crisis, he’s good at throwing out platitudes – I am vertically challenged –

[Laughter]

– he’s good at throwing out platitudes, false promises, giving mothers who have been through tragedy, like the Congresswoman McBath.  Then as soon as his NRA overlords yank his leash, he immediately retreats, and that’s why we’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of more people die.

And I think it’s important to note, as our colleague Robin Kelly always underscores, it is not just mass shootings that need to be addressed.  Making sure that H.R. 8 passes and that everyone who shouldn’t have a gun can’t purchase one – and you close all the loopholes – will ensure that daily gun violence – the shootings that occur in too many neighborhoods all across this country everyday – also, are less likely to have people who shouldn’t have guns getting to them.

Chairman Thompson.  30 people every day are killed by someone using a gun.  If you factor in accidents and suicides it ratchets up to 100 people a day.

Congresswoman Kelly.  I also think it’s great the Mike Thompson is our Chair, because he is a gun owner.  This is not about taking guns away from people who have them legally that are not trying to hurt themselves or anybody else. 

We are truly trying to prevent more deaths.  And we talk about the deaths, but there are so many more people that are maimed or will live with injuries for the rest of their lives, besides – also the suicides, as Congressman Thompson just said.

You know – we always talk about – we’re not trying to take Congressman Thompson’s guns away. 

[Laughter]

But, this is about gun safety and common sense.

Speaker Pelosi.  As I said, we’re not going away till the job is done, because we have this responsibility to save lives. 

More than a year ago, we had a sit-in – in – on the House Floor.  It was led by our Vice Chair of our Caucus, Congresswoman Katherine Clark.  Katherine, do you want to speak to the relentlessness which we will bring to all of this?

Congresswoman Clark.  The sit-in was borne out of a deep grieving and frustration that we could not get a vote on something that, as my colleagues and the Speaker have said so eloquently, is supported across ideologies by the American people, because they understand, this is about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, of people who wish to harm our communities.  And that perfectly squares with the Second Amendment. 

We did not get the vote after the sit-in.  But we organized, we joined with the Parkland students and other activists around this country, and we won the Majority, in part on this issue.  And we have passed the legislation that we said we would, that the American people are demanding.  And so to have this blocked by Mitch McConnell, to stand in the way from the will of the people, to offer security and a better life for our children, is just outrageous.

And we are going to take this sign and the letter from my colleagues, led by Mike Thompson, to the Majority Leader in the Senate and say ‘Time’s up. Do your job.’ 

Congresswoman Kelly.  And elections are proving that we are right.

Congresswoman Clark.  That’s right.

Speaker Pelosi.  This is not the first time some of our folks here have marched over to his office in recent weeks.  Congresswomen McBath, did you want to speak to who you lead over there?  And Rep. Kelly referenced it.

Congresswoman McBath.  A couple of – it’s almost been two months ago, there was a huge rally here at the Capitol.  Survivors, we had the faith community, we had leaders in the gun violence prevention advocacy spaces.  We all did actually galvanize support here on the Capitol lawn and then we actually took Senator McConnell’s own constituents, gun violence survivors that he represents, we took them over to his office to share their stories, to talk about the horrific experiences and tragedies that they have had. 

And we spent about 90 minutes over there, speaking with his staff, telling story after story after story, in hopes that it would move them to act.  And we were received with, ‘Thank you for telling your story.  Thank you for telling your story.’  But we truly felt once we had left that office that we had moved no one.  Then I had the opportunity to bump into Senator McConnell on the way out of his office and I remember explicitly saying to him, ‘Sir, I have just come from your office to implore you to do the right thing in passing federal background checks for all gun sales.’  And all he said is, ‘Thank you very much.’

Speaker Pelosi.  Judy Chu is the Chair, as I said, of our Asian Pacific Caucus in the House.  Judy did you want to speak to … ?

Congresswoman Chu.  Well it was over a year ago when I met with the Parkland students who were so shaken by, who were so shaken by the shooting at their high school.  And it was only last week, when students from Saugus High School, which is in the neighboring district from me, in California, faced the same kind of shooter in their high school and two beautiful young students died from that shooting.  They just had their memorial and I could not help but think, in all this time, nothing has been done to protect these students from this terrible kind of violence, nor has nothing – nor has anything been done for the people of America in protecting them from these shootings.  And that’s why I am here.  I am here for those Saugus High School Students.  I am here for all the victims that deserve protection in this country.

Speaker Pelosi.  Questions?  One last question – anyone?

Q:  Tonight is the Democratic debate and candidates on the trail have pushed for even more progressive gun reform policies like a mandatory buy back on assault weapons.  Do you think that some Democrats are drifting too far left and drifting too far away from plans like H.R. 8?

Speaker Pelosi.  We think that this is where the consensus is.  This is where we believe most lives will be saved.  Most lives will be saved by having background checks and as distinguished Chairmen Mr. Thompson mentioned, this is only an expansion. 

Last week, I had the honor of being honored by the Brady, the Brady Group – President Clinton was honored as well, as was Peter King.  You have been honored by them before, as has Chuck Schumer.  And I talked about how we, how we passed this bill in the 90s.  It was hard.  We lost the first vote on the rule that we were whipping.  I was a minion working under the leadership of Chuck Schumer at the time, who was Judiciary Committee lead on the legislation.  And – but eventually we did win the vote.  This has, again, the most consensus, will save the most lives, will make the biggest difference.

Once we get this passed, we can discuss whatever else we want to do.  But we believe the votes are there.  90 percent of the Americans people, that means NRA members, that means Democrats, Republicans, Independents, that means gun owners – most of them have passed their own background checks. 

So, this is, you know, the path that we think saves the most lives so we will go there. 

Now, I am the Speaker of the House and Chuck is the Leader in the Senate.  We are not letting – we are not letting go of this issue until we pass this legislation. 

Thank you all very much.