Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Representing the 12th District of California

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Pelosi Floor Remarks on House Republicans’ Failure to Act on Commonsense Gun Violence Prevention Legislation Before Recess

Jul 14, 2016
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House floor on House Republicans’ inaction on commonsense gun violence legislation ahead of the seven-week recess.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“I thank the gentleman for yielding.  The gentleman from Rhode Island, Mr. Cicilline, has been such a leader on this issue.  He was a leader in the sit-in that happened a few weeks ago on the Floor of the House.  I can attest personally, I bore witness to his staying here all night for 25 hours straight.  He organized us on the steps of the Capitol on Tuesday evening, the one-month anniversary – bad, sad observance of the one month since Orlando, where a hate crime was committed against young people gathered for a night of enjoyment, instead to have the end of their life occur.  And why?  Because of a hate crime.  And why?  Because we don't have commonsense gun laws in our country.  He also organized us all day, in one minutes, over – scores of one minutes on behalf of House Democrats.  But I want to also thank him putting us together this evening for this Special Order in preparation for the event that will happen on the steps of the Capitol later this evening.

“I associate myself with the remarks of our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer when we say to the Republicans: why have you left here?  Congresswoman Beatty, the same message.  What more important thing do our Republican colleagues have to do than to be in session to do their job, for us all to do our job for the American people?  To do our job on Zika, which the President over four months ago requested funding to fight Zika – and now it is spreading in our country.  For funding for opioids.  We passed a bill, wonderful bill, good policy – no funding, therefore not effective.  We should be here to pass the funding for opioids.  And Flint, Michigan – what more important thing do you have to do, my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle, than to meet the needs of the children of Flint, Michigan?  And here we are, continuing to have our conversation about commonsense gun violence protection.

“I want to quote from President Lyndon Johnson.  In the aftermath of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, just weeks after the fatal shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. and only a few years after President John F. Kennedy was shot, President Johnson pressed Congress to enact gun control legislation that he sent to Capitol Hill years earlier.  He had sent it after the Kennedy assassination.  LBJ ordered all of his staff and urged allies in Congress to act swiftly.  And here's what he said that was as relevant now as it was then – President Lyndon Johnson said, following the death of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, he said, ‘We only have two weeks, maybe only 10 days,’ he said, ‘before the gun lobby gets organized.  We've got to beat the NRA into the offices of Members of Congress.’  Decades.  This has been going on for decades.

“When the President of the United States, after the assassination of a president, an icon, reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., a Senator, Robert Kennedy following that – well, actually he was a candidate for president at the time, Senator Kennedy was – we've got to beat the NRA into the offices of Members of Congress.  Well, obviously we haven't because they sort of live there.  They sort of live there.  And when he signed the bill, he said, ‘The voices that’ – the watered down version of the bill he proposed – he said, ‘The voices that block these safeguards were not the voices of an aroused nation.  They were the voices of a powerful gun lobby, a gun lobby that has prevailed for the moment in an election year.’  Sound familiar? 

“He went on to say, LBJ did, ‘We have been through a great deal of anguish these last few months and these last few years.  Too much anguish to forget so quickly.  So now, we must complete the task which this long-needed legislation begins.’  And here we are, decades later, still recognizing the fact that the National Rifle Association, the gun lobby, has so much power over Members of Congress.  So much power over the political survival – some of our colleagues think. 

“I ask them, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if I think that’s how I’m supposed to address you.  So I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is more important: the political survival of Members of Congress beholden to the gun lobby, or the survival of little kindergarten students in Newtown, Connecticut?  What is more important: the political survival of Members of Congress or the personal survival of members gathered in church in South Carolina?  Or young people gathered for an evening of fun in Orlando?  The list goes on and on of our dear police officers killed in Dallas.  What is it?  How do you explain this to people, except to say there is a large element of cowardice?  There's a large element of putting people's own political survival over the oath of office that we take to protect the American people.  Excuse me, this is so emotional. 

“I salute my colleague, Congresswoman Beatty, for her very not only passionate, but intellectual statement that she made and recognizing the role of athletes.  I’m very proud of the Golden State Warriors.  And they have long been involved in this, as has the NBA and the players that she mentioned.  So, this was another venue for them to speak out.  But they have been eloquent on the subject for a while. 

“I salute my colleague, Mr. Cicilline, not only for his work on gun issues, but on hate crimes as well, because that was a hate crime in Orlando.  I support our – Mr. Clyburn is going to be outside on the steps of the Capitol, a large crowd of people so that we can listen to the stories of those affected.  If only our colleagues would open their hearts and their minds and not have a tin ear to the voice of the families.  Listen to the families.  One of our own colleagues, Bobby Rush, Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, his family are survivors of the death of their son.  When he tells the story of how he learned of his son being shot, but then of his son's passing, it is so eloquent so compelling.  And when he talks about the shriek, the cry, the scream of a mother who has just found out that her child is dead from a gunshot. 

“How much of this can we take?  It's always impressive, I have to say, to witness the degree of tolerance that our colleagues have, the tolerance they have for the pain of others.  How much pain do people have to suffer for people to hear, to learn, to judge?  Wasn't it George Bernard Shaw who said: ‘The sign of a truly intelligent person is that,’ he said at the time, ‘is informed by statistics’.  The statistics are overwhelming.  Ninety-one a day.  Over 1,000 mass [shootings], that being defined as more than four or more people being slaughtered in one incident – all of that since Newtown. 

“I know my time is drawing short but I’ll just say this.  These are statistics.  More important than that, they are human lives.  How many more human lives, how many more shrieks of mothers and dads as well – and [Congressman Rush] spoke about hearing his wife’s shriek, the piercing sound of a mother's scream.  I heard one of the mothers of Orlando when she was suspicious that her son might have been killed.  She said: ‘I don't know, we don't have any evidence, but nobody has seen him, he isn't at the hospital. I’m afraid I have become a member of the club, the club of moms who have lost their children.’  It’s a terrible club to be a member of.  And I want to speak out against gun violence so there aren't more moms added to the club.'

“But that doesn't seem to resonate [with] our colleagues.  They don't give the courtesy of attendance, attendance, to hear the concerns that people have.  Is it indifference?  Do they not know or do they not care?  Or it is some combination?   Whatever it is, [it is also] a disgrace to our oath of office to protect the American people.  Be assured of this, be assured of this: we are not going away.  You will see us.  You will see the faces of those moms and all the organizations that have come together that millions of people, the high percentages, 85 percent, 90 percent of American people, of all parties and no parties who support the legislation that we are asking for.  We are not going away until we have commonsense gun violence prevention laws passed in our country to save lives.  To save lives.  That's the challenge we offer to our Republican colleagues.  I yield back, Mr. Speaker.”  

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