Pelosi Floor Remarks on House GOP’s Failure to Disarm Hate, Pass Commonsense Gun Safety Legislation
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there's a public health emergency in our country. You're thinking of Zika, you're thinking of opioids. Yes, they are public health emergencies. But there is another long-term public health emergency, and that is gun violence.
“I thank the chair of our Task Force, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Larson for organizing it, the great icon [Congressman] John Lewis for galvanizing all of the concern in the Congress around this issue. [Congressman] David Cicilline, of course, our distinguished Congresswoman, we just heard from, Ms. Clark from Massachusetts, for their leadership. [Congresswoman] Robin Kelly of Illinois, has been a champion [and Congresswoman] Judy Chu. So many Members have taken the lead on this issue as [Congresswoman] Elizabeth Esty, before she was even sworn-in in Congress, addressing the concerns in Newtown.
“Ninety one people lose their lives to gun violence every day. That is not a statistic. That is an outrage. It is a challenge to the conscience of our nation to end Congress' appalling inaction on gun violence prevention. Across America, communities are standing up, speaking out and lighting the way. A preventable public health crisis is taking the lives of our children, our neighbors and our friends. You would think when the lives of little children in school were taken that that would be the end of it, that would end the discussion; and that any common ground that we could find to expand, expand the background checks, which is not a big thing, really, in terms of just including internet sales and gun shows, just expanding what we have. Not a big legislative move but making a tremendous difference in saving lives in our country.
“This Congress must hear the voices of those calling for action to keep guns out of the wrong hands. And I want to just talk about some of the voices that I recently heard when I was in Florida a couple of weeks ago. I went to Orlando, visited Pulse, the name of the nightclub where the gun violence there took place. It was gun violence and it was a hate crime – a deadly combination. And when I met with the families and some of the survivors there to hear their concerns about hate crimes and gun violence, they really to a person said to me: please, do something to stop gun violence. As consumed as they were by the fact this was a hate crime, the gun violence issue was what each one of them spoke about. That they had lost their loved ones – these are young people out on a Saturday night. One mom who went there to take her son there and see his friends and the rest and make sure he was safe, the mom died, the son survived. Any mom would prefer that outcome, but why does that have to be the choice?
“So here they are. If you're in kindergarten or in a movie theater, if you're in church praying as was referenced by our colleagues about South Carolina – that was a hate crime too. The awful statements made by the perpetrator of that crime when he exploited the hospitality that was extended to him to pray together. And then for him to make his hateful remarks, racist remarks, and then do violence on the people who had welcomed him to pray with them. So, where is it that people are safe? What can we do to make a difference? Well, for one thing, if you're too dangerous to fly, then you should be too dangerous to buy a gun. Eighty to 90% of the American people subscribe to that. That shouldn't be controversial in the Congress. We're supposed to be Representatives representing the will of the people, and where there is consent – we have enough disagreement – but where there is consensus and a public health emergency and loss of life, even to little children, people in church, young people out on the town, people going to the movies – what is it that our colleagues don't understand?
“It also depends – in addition to keeping guns out of the hands of those who are too dangerous to fly; our nation depends on keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them – again, just simply expanding to gun shows and internet sales. Yet, House Republicans won't even give the American people a vote. Just a vote. See how it goes. What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that the American people will be done and that we'll have a successful vote? No Fly, No Buy, strengthening our background checks system.
“So we're going to be leaving soon before we were going to leave for the summer under the leadership of our distinguished leader, whom we all consider a privilege to call ‘colleague,’ John Lewis – with his sit-in on the Floor of this House and that reverberated across the country. Reverberated across the country. Then we left. Congress shut down and we left. We're about to do so again, but we have a little time. We have a little time to save lives. What more important thing do any of us have to do than to stay here and pass a law to save lives? If somebody said to you, ‘You could save 90 lives by passing a bill today,’ wouldn't you do that? Or why wouldn't you do that? Why wouldn't you do that?
“It's really quite a sad thing when people – when they go the movies, as my colleague Mr. Israel keeps pointing out, when you go to the movies people are usually concerned about are they going to be able to get their popcorn and their whatever in time to get a seat in the theater. Now, they want to know where the nearest exit is when they go to the theater. What's that about? What's that about? So, some people say it's about politics and it's just too politically dangerous for some of our colleagues to vote for the simple expansion of the background check legislation and passing No Fly, No Buy. It's politically dangerous to them. Whose political survival is more important than the lives of these children? Of those people in church? Of those young people out on a Saturday night? People who go to the movies? Whose political survival is more important than protecting the American people? That's the oath we take: to protect and defend, whether it's the Constitution, whether its protecting our country, national security, our neighborhood security, our personal security.
“So let's honor our oath of office. Let us honor our sense of responsibility. Let us respond to those moms and family members and survivors from Pulse [Nightclub] who said, ‘Why? Why are you not passing legislation in the House of Representatives to prevent gun violence? To save lives?’ To save lives.
“So in any case, I think it's really important, and I thank Mr. Larson for, again, bringing us together. We're not going away. This will be – go on and go on and go on until we disarm hate. We're here to save lives – here and across the country. We're not going to stop until we enact gun violence prevention laws. We're not going to stop until we get the job done.
“Again, I thank our leaders on this important issue. Mr. Thompson, thank you for your leadership, for years now, on the subject. And again, hopefully it won't be too long before our colleagues see the light and decide that their political survival is not more important than the survival of little children in first grade. With that, I yield back.”