Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Lifesaving Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

March 10, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 8, The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his great leadership of the Judiciary Committee.  Thank you for bringing this important legislation to the Floor, Mr. Nadler.  And, again, as an authority on the Constitution, you and I know that we do respect the right of the gentleman to have a gun.  We just want to make sure that we are keeping people safe. 

It is – the gun violence crisis in America, Mr. Speaker, is a challenge to the conscience of our country.  One that demands that we act.  We know what must be done.  The solutions are clear.  They are — an overwhelming, bipartisan support across the country.  And these solutions will save lives. 

That is why I'm so pleased to rise on the Floor to support Mr. Clyburn's legislation, H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Check Act, to ensure that universal background checks do save lives.  He explained so clearly the purpose of his legislation.  I associate myself with his remarks.  I know how painful it is because he had friends in that church who we have met the families of since then.  

And I also rise to support H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, of Mr. Mike Thompson.  Mr. Thompson is a gun owner.  He's a veteran.  He respects the first – the Second Amendment.  And he is the Chair of the task – the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.  And I thank him for his decades of leadership on background checks and for the perspective he brings, again, as a gun owner, a veteran and a hunter. 

We all salute the extraordinary work of Whip, Mr. Clyburn, the leader of the Enhanced Background Checks Act, to close the Charleston Loophole and he – we respect him for the work he has done in his community to turn their agony into action, their pain into saving other people's lives.  

And I thank all the Members who helped lead the drumbeat on this – on these priorities, including our colleague, Representative Lucy McBath, who has been such an inspiration to all of us, bringing her great generosity of spirit in telling her story, sharing that story of Jordan with us.  And thank every – now, we also have a debt of gratitude to our former colleague, Gabby Giffords, who when she was having a neighborhood meeting, there was an attempt on her life.  Her courage is an inspiration to the country.  Her leadership to end gun violence is something that is so remarkable.  And under her leadership, and that of the Brady’s, we were able to meet with survivors over time to try to pass legislation to make the gun laws clearer and better and really adjusting to the realities of technology.  Our colleague – another colleague, Bobby Rush, lost his son to gun violence as well.  So, again, we hear about the big events that take place and they're horrible, but every day people lose their lives. 

In fact, let me just see what the statistics are.  Since 1994, when background checks were first created, and I had the privilege of being here at that time and actually serving as a whip for the legislation.  Our leader on the bill was Leader Schumer, well, right then he was a Member of Congress, Chuck Schumer, on this legislation and since 1994, when background checks were first created, the system has stopped more than three million dangerous people from getting firearms.  Every day when background checks are used, they stop an estimated 170 felons, 50 domestic abusers and nearly 20 fugitives from buying guns, every day, Mr. Speaker. 

Yet, over the years people have exploited and circumvented the system.  Today someone with a violence criminal record or history of abuse can go to a gun show, go online or even go to a stranger in person to purchase a firearm, no background check, no questions asked, all perfectly legal.  Now, It might be legal, but it's not perfect. 

Even when a background check has been initiated, it's not always completed, and that's what this legislation before us, Mr. Clyburn's bill, is about.  The horrific case that enabled a hate crime at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in which nine innocent people were murdered while peacefully worshiping. 

As a result, up to 80 percent of firearms, because of gun shows, online sales and the rest, 80 percent of firearms are sold or transferred without completed background checks.  So, it is in that spirit that I come to the Floor, but when I come to the floor, I bring with it the thinking of the survivors who we meet with regularly.  We have said to them, ‘We're not stopping until the job is done.’ 

We respect our Constitution, but we also say that the Constitution talks about ‘well regulated.’  Again, these bills that we're talking about have long, bipartisan – a long and bipartisan support by a vast majority of the American people, over 90 percent of the public, including more than 90 percent of gun owning households.  Most of these folks who own guns have passed background checks.  They support background checks, and they are supported by dozens of leading law enforcement, veterans, local government, public health and other groups. 

For example, Mr. Speaker, the major cities – it's called Major Cities Chiefs Association,  representing the nation's largest metropolitan law enforcement agencies, write, ‘The lack of a background check for private sales and gun shows completely contradicts the purpose for which NICS was established, to keep guns out of the hands of those who do harm.’ 

For the benefit of those who don’t know what NICS is, it's an important program.  Mr. Thompson has been the champion in the funding of NICS.  NICS is the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System

Next, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys states, ‘H.R. 8 will help the background check system catch up with changes in technology and ensure that individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing a gun cannot easily buy guns online.’  And the U.S. Conference of Mayors writes that, ‘H.R. 8 will make our cities safer and in no way compromise gun owner rights.’ And that H.R. 8 is very important to us, and it is legislation that has broad support.  It's called the background check – the Bipartisan Background Check Act.  That's Mr. Thompson's, that bill. 

And this bill, H.R. 1446, Mr. Clyburn's, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.  So, everything I say about one bill applies to the other in terms of its purpose, in terms of its urgency and in terms of its honoring our promise to the survivors and the families who have lost their loved ones to gun violence, that we are not going away until this legislation passes and that we will meet the challenge to the conscience of the country, when it comes to the gun violence crisis in our country. 

And I say that with gratitude to Mr. Chairman, Mike Thompson, and our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn, for their leadership, their determination, their persistence and soon, hopefully, their success in turning their legislation into law so that we can keep our promises to the survivors and also that we can make the world safer for all children and all people in our country and throughout the world, as we are an example to the world. 

With that, I urge an aye vote on both of these bills and yield back the balance of my time.