Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Pelosi Remarks at Bicameral Press Event Calling on Senator McConnell to Hold Vote on House-Passed Gun Violence Prevention Bills

September 9, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, House and Senate Democrats, and Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio for a media availability calling on Senator Mitch McConnell to bring House-passed gun violence prevention legislation to the Senate Floor for a vote as soon as possible.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Leader Schumer, for bringing us together here this afternoon – stating that our first order of business is to save lives by passing, hopefully in the Senate, the bill passed in the House for gun violence prevention.

I want to remind everyone that Mr. Schumer was a leader in the House when this legislation was passed in the nineties.  The rest of us were his lieutenants who ran around trying to get votes, but he took the lead on passing very progressive legislation at that time.

And, as he indicated, since that time, there have been ways to evade some of the background checks, some predictable and some not – the online sales are a new phenomenon. 

So, this is, just to be clear, a simple bill – a bill, H.R. 8, so named because it was eight years from the time Gabby Gifford’s town meeting was assaulted by gun violence and people died.

This bill, under the leadership of Mike Thompson, the Chair of our Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention, put this bill together in a bipartisan way, passed it and sent it to the Senate, as a companion bill, H.R. 1112, which modifies the time table. 

But, just think of it – it’s very simple: online sales, person-to-person sales – which is how one of the most recent gun violence episodes took place, because somebody bought it from a person – person-to-person, online and gun shows – again, as was indicated, whose purpose was something quite different at the time. 

So, this isn’t radical.  It’s just an expansion of what has been successful already. 

When we passed our bill, and these incidents occurred during the break, I wrote to the President and asked him to call the Senate back immediately to pass Mr. Thompson’s bill, H.R. 8, and Mr. Clyburn’s legislation. 

He was very positive about it, he said ‘I’m going to talk to Leader Schumer.  I am going to talk to Leader McConnell about getting something done.’  I had the impression that he understood that lives were at stake. 

My message to the President, to Leader McConnell, is the following: there isn’t anyone in this institution or anywhere else in public life whose political survival is more important than the survival of our children and the safety of our communities.

We are not taking no for an answer.  We are not going away. 

Leading up to this, the first day of our session coming back after the district work period, I want to report how proud I am that across the country hundreds of meetings were held – whether a town meeting, a press conference, whatever – to speak out to pass this legislation.

Ninety percent, at least, of the public supports it, including gun owners, members of the NRA and the rest.  So, when they say the President’s base is opposed to it, ninety-some percent of the American people support it.  What courage does it take to support legislation that will save lives?

So, here we are once again asking the Grim Reaper, informing the Grim Reaper that this bill, these bills are alive and well in the public, that public opinion, public sentiment, will weigh in.  And, as I have said in our meetings across the country, we will make this issue too hot for him to handle.

But, some of the gun violence prevention groups have made it – upped the ante even further, to say that if this bill is not passed, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate and the President will have hell to pay.

So, let’s save time.  Let’s just get it done now.  We have important reasons why.  We know about the mass shootings and they are just stunningly heartbreaking.  But, every single night, every single day across the country, gun violence occurs that this bill could prevent, lives that could be saved.

And, I was so moved by the paper this morning.  The Washington Post had the article about Missy and Little Mo, her twin brother.  They were fifteen years old.  They were so close since birth, honor students in high school.  He left to go buy some cereal, or something, never came back.

I wish you’d read that story.  I wish the President would read that story to see how this hits home for so many of America’s families. 

Nobody can tell us a story better, or more recently, about that than our next presenter – really our VIP here today.

Senator Brown calls her the best mayor in America.  I don’t know if I’d spread that word throughout Ohio, but that’s what he just said. 

So, let us welcome Mayor Whaley, Mayor of Dayton.  Thank you again, Mayor.

* * *

Leader Schumer.  We’re going to take just a few questions, on this subject only.

Q: Thank you so much.  To the point that the Speaker made, to sort of make this too hot to handle, and that’s the bar you said that you know, you said you were going to be elevating.  It has been more than a month since the shooting.  Why in that period of time has that not been enough?

I mean, I know everybody’s just getting back into town today, but why was that interim period not enough to make this too hot to handle?

Leader Schumer.  It keeps growing and growing because there’s more gun violence.  Look at the number of incidents that occurred while we were away.  It’s going to be –

Q:  But you can still tell McConnell –

Leader Schumer.  – it’s getting hotter and hotter and hotter.

Yes.

Q: Are you prepared to hold up spending bills in hopes of forcing –

Leader Schumer.  Look, our first job is to get Leader McConnell to put this on the Floor.  That is where our focus is right now.  And that’s what we’re going to do.  We are going to keep pushing him to get this on the Floor. 

Q: The concern, as you well know, is that gun legislation has languished on Capitol Hill for almost two decades now.  So, what makes you confident, what makes you hopeful that now will be different?

Leader Schumer.  It’s a different era.

Never have we had 93 percent of the American people for background checks.  Never have had 80 percent of gun owners for background checks.  Never have we had so many folks in the NRA for background checks. 

Last one.

Q:  When was the last time you spoke with the President about this topic and do you have a clear idea right now from the White House on what he would sign?

 

Leader Schumer.  I’ve spoken to him a few times in the last month and he’s all over the lot.  I mean, he tells people right after an incident, ‘I’m going to get the strongest bill ever,’ and then he fades back from that. 

But, the pressure is not going away.  And I think that the reason that this issue is out front today, not just a month ago, not just when we left, is because the pressure is mounting and people know that voters – not just Democratic voters, not just urban voters – but voters throughout America want this bill done.

Do you want to say something, Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  I just want to say that after – when the first mass murder occurred during this break, I sent a letter to the President, as I mentioned earlier, asking him to call Congress back. 

At the time, he was very enthusiastic, as I mentioned earlier.  He said he would speak to Leader Schumer, Chuck, and he would speak to Mitch, Leader McConnell – kind of almost enthusiastically embracing the idea.

But what I’m afraid it may have been is a way to defang the issue, for the moment, because we haven’t seen any evidence of good intention since then.

But since then, we have had meetings across the country.  We’ve heard from the victims or their families, and the families of victims of gun violence.  We’ve heard from health care professionals about the trauma and what this means to our children.  For our children, stop this.  We’ve heard from law enforcement.  There’s one letter with two pages of lists of law enforcement officers – Chiefs of Police from major communities across the country, asking for gun violence prevention legislation. 

So we – again, we’re meeting today.  Tomorrow – tomorrow, under the leadership of the Task Force that Mr. Thompson chairs, we will be having a hearing – very well participated in, excellent witnesses.  I hope you will cover it.

The Mayor is here.  Mayor Whaley is here.  The Mayors will be having their own press event.  Everytown will be having events with some of the Mayors. 

The beat goes on.  And, we want a vote now on a clean bill to get this done and we’re not going to let the subject be changed or diminished in any way.

So, again, the President said positive things.  We quote that in the letter.

Leader Schumer.  When I talked to him right after the Speaker he said he wanted the strongest possible bill.  That’s what he said, ‘I want the strongest possible bill.’

And never, never, never have we seen the breadth of this issue be so wide and the depth of this issue be so strong.  It ain’t going away.

Sherrod wanted to say something and then we’re going to have to –

Senator Brown.  President Trump told Mayor Whaley and me that he would push for a strong bill. 

Why is this different now from what it was a month ago?  It’s different because Republican Senator after Republican Senator in states like Maine and North Carolina and Arizona and Colorado – Senators that are fearful of what’s going to happen in their re-election fights – are out campaigning in August and they’re hearing from voter after voter after voter.  You’ve got to do something.

They in turn are going to be talking to McConnell.  McConnell is going to feel the pressure, not just from all of us, not just from the 93 percent Congressman Thompson talks about.  He’s going to hear it from his own Members because they’re hearing it from that 93 percent.

Leader Schumer.  Thank you, everybody.