Pelosi Remarks at Newtown Vigil to End Gun Violence
Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 202-226-7616
San Francisco – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at the Newtown Vigil to End Gun Violence at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Reverend Corsello for your hospitality and your inspiration to all of us. After listening to Clare and to Damien, it’s hard to be composed. It’s hard to grasp the strength that Clare had telling us about Camilo.
“We heard you before – you and Damien at other events that we had. When we followed up on the action on the Floor of the House – it was a drumbeat across America. Clare inspired us – she inspired me with her words, her story, her strength. She turned her grief into something better for our country.
“Damien told us that he had been on ‘both sides of the gun.’ Do you remember that? He used that phrase. And he just had the crowd going in a way – reaching folks that needed to be reached on all of this. So, Damien, you’re a star. We brag about you all the time. Clare, I can’t even imagine the strength. So sad for your family – as a mother and a grandmother, I can’t even – I just think, all of you, God gave you special strength.
“I’m here with my daughter Christine, who has been on this issue for a long time. This is a family affair.
“I listened to what has been said – the beautiful words of Catherine. She just put it all in perspective. And I just thought maybe I just take my comments to a little bit of a different place.
“That is to say: we had our Sit-In – the Speaker said, ‘This is a political stunt on the part of Nancy Pelosi.’ John Lewis was our inspiration, and by the way, John Lewis said, ‘That’s what they said – they called it a political stunt when we walked across the bridge [in Selma].’ That didn’t fly there. It didn’t fly.
“And as we look at the election, 80 percent of the public supports background checks, and yet, that is not reflected in their vote. And we just have to be more aware of the fact that there are great forces online. You described them – Claire did – very well.
“From watching what happened since this last election, to see how the gun lobby beyond the NRA – they too, but beyond them – how they targeted people very specifically, carving off the hunters with a different message. First, the Second Amendment – those folks and the rest. So, it’s a very sophisticated, money-oriented operation.
“When President Kennedy was assassinated – and then later, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King – President Lyndon Johnson sent a bill to the Congress. This is now how many years ago? The 1960s – [he] sent a bill to the Congress, and he said to his supporters there, ‘We must act swiftly because it will be 10 days or two weeks before the NRA and the gun lobby take over the Congress.’ Even then, with the assassination of a President and Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, he knew the high profile nature of that. And he got a bill, but it wasn’t the bill that he wanted to have.
“So now, how could be it be with twenty little children and six of their teachers are killed – that that would not be an outrage, on top of, as Catherine said, almost 90 people a day being shot in our country. Who are we?
“I just want to tell you a story: over the break – the Thanksgiving break – one of my colleagues, Congressman Danny Davis, a beautiful, lovely gentleman from Chicago – his grandson – somebody went into his daughter’s home, and shot, in the head, his grandson. Fifteen years old. Went into the home, shot and ran out. Fifteen years old.
“So I called Danny, and I said, ‘Danny, what is possible? Everything is inadequate.’ He was so beautiful. He prayed publicly for the family of the boy who shot his grandson. He took on the issue, as a call to action, with what we must do to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. He took the opportunity to go to some of the underlying causes of the despair people are experiencing.
“When he came to Congress this past week, I’ve never seen so much strength. And Clare demonstrated that strength as well. Javon Wilson, just 15 years old. What is this? What is it?
“At our first Newtown anniversary vigil, I shared the Sandy Hook promise: our hearts are broken, our spirit is not. Today, four years after a gunman took the lives of 20 children and six educators, our hearts remain broken, but our spirits are not.
“Every day, almost 90 people lose their lives to gun violence in America but there have been more than 200 school shootings and 1,400 mass shootings in the U.S. It’s insanity. This is not a statistic; it is an outrage.
“So what we need to do is just to do our, again, outside mobilization. Moms Demand Action, thank you. Thank you; thank you so much, Shannon Watts, for your leadership – all of you for what you do.
“It’s a sin. We are gathered in church. And a lot of the people who vote against our interest in this issue are church going people. You would think there would be a recognition of the value of every life. And you would think that Members of Congress would understand that may it be politically risky for them to vote the right way, their political survival is insignificant compared to the survival of all of the people who died at the hands of gun violence.
“We have the legislation, we just ask for a vote. Why won’t they give us a vote? Do they fear that we will succeed? Background checks, No Fly, No Buy – save more lives than any other initiatives we can put forth.
“We meet with the families all the time. We draw strength from their courage. It’s very humbling not to be able to deliver on that. But we are not going away. And we’ll have something this week in Washington on the 14th but again, this starts the week of observances for this.
“John Lewis, such a hero, an icon in our country – so many people, so many votes, but they won’t give us one to register that. So we cannot despair. We’ve told them: ‘We’re not going away. We are going to disarm hate.’ It may seem inconceivable to them, but it is inevitable to us. And we must shorten the distance between the inconceivable and the inevitable. We owe it to our children to be able to have them live in place where their safety is ensured, and for their families and our communities.
“So I’ve come here to say: ‘Thank you,’ to all of you for being such an important force in all ofthis. Whatever maneuvering we can do in the Congress is totally inadequate without the outside mobilization. The mobilization is there. The legislation is clear. The need for a vote – that is being rejected. They cannot think for a moment that we will relax our guard.
“So, God bless you all for what you do. Thank you for what you do. When we do pass a bill, hopefully it will be soon, please be assured that it would have never happened without the sacrifices you all have made to share your stories and to also be present to disarm hate. Thank you.”
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