Pelosi Floor Speech on Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

Dec 17, 2012
Press Release

Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor in support of a resolution commemorating the lives of those lost in the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and I rise in support of his resolution, his very important resolution, to condemn the acts of a lone gunman in Newtown, Connecticut, and to offer condolences to the families and members of the community. I join him, in the words of this resolution, in saluting the courage of the teachers and administrators who gave their lives to save the children in their care, to thank the first responders who arrived on the scene to not only get survivors to safety, but to end the succession of killings that were happening.

“Those first responders, Mr. Speaker, they leave their homes every day knowing they’re going to face danger and they did that day as well. But in the face of it, they were heroic, as were the teachers, and the counselor, and the principal of the school. This has all been made very clear to us by our colleagues: Congresswoman DeLauro – who, children and violence, and prevention, has been a priority for her. Of course, Congressman Murphy, Senator-Elect Murphy, who represents this district with such distinction and such compassion. Congressman Courtney, Congressman John Larson, Congressman Jim Himes – all of them spoke with such beauty at our service earlier, the twilight service earlier, the candlelight service – it was so moving to hear their connection to the people there. Their words were universal, as the President said, he said last night – this could’ve happened any place – ‘we can’t tolerate this anymore,’ he said. ‘These tragedies must end. And to the end them, we must change.’

“To change, our nation is already beginning to reassess the options before us. Leaders from both parties have stepped forward to put forward a series of steps on the table – from restoring the ban on assault weapons, to assault magazines, to strengthening the system of background checks. And again, we must address the challenge of mental health and keep weapons out of the hands of those in danger of doing harm to themselves and to others. The voices of reason cannot be silent. Through administrative and legislative action we must limit the proliferation of weapons and ammunitions that have no other purpose than to kill citizens.

“Our colleagues have talked about – Congresswoman Maloney just before me – but others in the course of the evening, about legislation that we could pass immediately. The American people expect us to do, and that is to ban assault magazines, assault magazines. Of course we want to ban assault weapons, but to ban assault magazines – why is it that somebody needs a magazine with 20 shots in it and then it can have two of those and 40 lives are at risk? Why is it? I’m not even asking that rhetorically, I’m asking it of those who are advocating that we shouldn’t make this change. Haven’t we crossed a threshold? When children in kindergarten and in school are not safe? When people who go to the theater in Aurora have someone come in and just kill people – I mean, just to use those words is very hard.

“I don’t know what words we could ever use to comfort the families of Newtown, Connecticut. As a mother and a grandmother, I find it – you said ‘unfathomable,’ Congresswoman Maloney, unspeakable, unthinkable, just impossible to imagine how they go forward, but hopefully God will give them the strength and the courage to do so. It reminded me of when I was, when I – before I was in Congress I had the invitation of President Carter to visit Italy with a delegation – Geraldine Ferraro, Members of Congress, Italian-American Members of Congress, Mario Cuomo, etcetera – and we went there to deliver assistance from the United States government after an earthquake in southern Italy, and one of the villages we visited, there was a rehearsal for first communion going on in the church. So, just about every seven year old in the village was in church practicing for first Holy Communion. When the earthquake hit, the roof came down, every seven year old in the village was gone.

“It was impossible to console the people there. Not only had they individually lost their child, which is unthinkable, but the whole town had lost that class, their future, their new growth, their hopes, their babies, their babies. So how – and it really transformed my thinking about how fragile life is. This was a natural disaster. What happened in Newtown was a personal decision about someone whose judgment was thoroughly impaired, who had – how could he do this? How could he do it? Because he had his own problems. How could he do this? Because he had the guns. He had the assault magazines to do it, that’s how he could do it. So, let’s at least try to mitigate for the circumstances that we may not be able to control entirely, the mental condition of someone, but at least limit the capacity to kill that person has.

“Just hearing the reaction to the expressions of sympathy to the families, to see the President read the names and hear the sobbing, this is something that has scarred, will scar our country. If we can do something about it to prevent it from happening again, to this extent, maybe we can’t prevent it all from happening, but if we’re going to take care of our people, we have to take care of them in many ways: address the issue of violence, address the issue of mental health, address the issue of where mental health and access to assault magazines comes together. Some people are calling them high capacity, or whatever. They’re assault. They’re assault magazines. They make every weapon an assault weapon that they are compatible with. Whether it’s a pistol, or a rifle, or whatever it is.

“So, yes, we want to ban assault weapons. But these assault magazines makes every weapon it’s compatible with an assault weapon. It doesn’t take a whole lot to figure out what we need to do immediately and then maybe do more later. But wouldn’t that be a comfort to these families to know that although they lost their babies, their little angels, precious darlings going to heaven, that something would come of it that would prevent this from happening to others? I always wondered, in the Bible, in the Gospel when Christ says: ‘suffer little children and come unto me.’ ‘Suffer little children and come unto me.’ I guess it was an interpretation of the word ‘suffer’ – ‘allow’ little children to come unto me – but Christ was calling children to him. He used the word ‘suffer,’ these children, their lives are gone, their families are suffering – the other children in the school, in the neighborhood, or children who just have heard about this, are suffering too. Suffering about what it feels like to go to school and not be sure you’re safe. Staying up at night being sleepless in terms of being scared of what could happen. Let’s stop the suffering of our children, whether it’s taking their lives, scaring them from going to school, or keeping them up at night, giving them nightmares over their safety.

“These little children did suffer and they did go on to heaven, a better place. It’s the timing that we have a problem with – far too soon, far too many, for a reason that we can do something about. So, I commend my colleagues for how they came together – led by the community coming together, the community of Newtown and Sandy [Hook] – such an inspiration to the country, so strong, so courageous, so sad, so sad.

“Well, let’s show them that not only do we offer words, we offer action – and that action will take the form of passing this legislation to ban assault magazines, to do so in a timely fashion so that in a non-untimely fashion we won’t lose any more lives.

“With that, again, I want to commend the President for his beautiful words to the nation – well, mostly to the families last night and to the community – but the source of strength and inspiration he was. Challenge us to act, he said, let me just say it again: ‘we can’t tolerate this anymore.’ He said, ‘these tragedies must end and to end them we must change.’

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for your leadership. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I yield back to the gentleman.”