WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 2499, the Protecting Our Kids Act, legislation to address gun violence. Below is a transcript of his remarks and the video:
“I thank the gentleman for yielding. This is an emotional debate. It’s an emotional debate because we lose on a daily basis family members, neighbors, friends, fellow citizens to a bullet or multiple bullets. Killed by a gun. I do not subscribe to the theory that some promote that the more guns we have, the safer we’ll be. I believe that is somewhat like the ‘OK Corral’ theory. If you have a faster gun, that you will be safe. Eventually somebody will have a faster, bigger, more surprising gun than we.
“Madam Speaker, like all Americans, I found the mass shooting at Uvalde, Texas, heart wrenching, tragic and unacceptable. Although the news was excruciating to watch, it was anything but surprising, given our history with deadly firearms. Sadly, we didn’t even have time to mourn the nineteen children and two teachers who were killed in Uvalde before news broke of another mass shooting. Over and over and over and over and over and over again. At some point, these statistics have to move us to respond in an effective way.
“My friend from North Carolina suggested hardening the schools. We have hardened this chamber over the objections of some. When we know no gun should be in this Capitol other than those possessed by law enforcement – Capitol Police. According to the nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive, there have been as many as thirty-three mass gun violence incidents in the fourteen days since the attack on Robb Elementary. We have more guns in this country than any other nation on earth. The Second Amendment guarantees that we have a right to a gun but the Supreme Court in Heller said there are limitations to that right. I strongly support an individual American’s right to have a gun in his or her home to protect themselves, in their business. But the Court said, be reasonable.
“In the past week alone we have seen mass shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Past week, seven days. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not even ten days before the shooting at Robb Elementary, a domestic terrorist killed thirteen people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. In every corner of this country, Americans are begging, begging Congress to protect our kids and our people. Many of us like to say this is the People’s House. The people are speaking to us and crying out for action.
“A gentleman who spoke before me said something about saying prayers. I believe in prayer. But I also believe the admonition John Kennedy said when he said, ‘let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help. But knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.’ Our own. Today, in this House, the People’s House, we need to act to protect the people.
“I want to address your attention to this chart again. Look at the numbers. Hundreds of deaths. In addition to the unconscionable trauma these attacks inflicted on the parents, children, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters and other loved ones of the victims, they have one thing in common: the perpetrator got the gun legally.
“In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the perpetrator got the gun approximately three hours before he shot Dr. Mitchell. Filled obviously with passion and hate and anger, and the pain he apparently was suffering physically and perhaps emotionally. So what did he do? He went down, quickly got a gun, an AR-15, to be exact, and went and shot not only Dr. Mitchell but three other people in the process. 285 deaths, we could have prevented if we had commonsense gun laws in place.
“Of the 45,000 people who died from gun violence last year alone – we talk about making people safe, 45,000 deaths are not safe. How many would have also been spared had our laws been stronger? Frankly, I would favor myself re-instituting the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban for which I voted. And I lamented the fact that when my Republican colleagues were in charge of the House, Senate and the Presidency, they allowed that law to go out of existence. None of us can speculate what the cost of that was. But there’s no doubt in my mind there was a cost. In fact, that bill reduced mass shootings then, and it would do so again now. There’s much I believe we ought to do to as the representatives of the American people in this House. The House has already taken action on two critical gun safety measures, supported by nine out of ten Americans. We don’t have nine out of ten Americans that are Democrats in this country. Neither side does. But if you have any credence in polling data that says what Americans think, nine out of ten think that comprehensive background checks should be the law of the land. I don’t know the commonsense argument against that.
“We passed the Charleston Loophole. This gentleman who bought that gun three hours before he killed Dr. Mitchell, or thereabouts, would have had a time to cool off – to perhaps have second thoughts, to perhaps have saved the life of a doctor whose job it was to save lives. We sent those bills over and the Senate Republicans, however, have refused to allow even debate – even debate – on either of these bills that are overwhelmingly supported by the American people.
“I know that my Republican colleagues are as disturbed by the murder of children as Democrats are. I believe that. I hope that’s the case, but I believe it. But I am confounded by the unwillingness to respond in an effective way, even on asking that everybody get checked so they’re not criminally insane or a felon or an abuser or on the terrorist list. But no. Comprehensive background checks, just to see if somebody is a danger to themselves or others.
“I know that our colleagues across the aisle shed tears when their constituents die from gun violence. As we do. This should not be – this should not be a Democratic or a Republican issue – but an issue of our common humanity and our common sense. If we work together, we can achieve a safer America. We’ve seen promising signs from the Senate that a bipartisan agreement may be possible. I surely hope it is. But this House will not, should not wait to act. That’s why we’re voting on this Protect The Kids Act today. This legislation is, in my view, long overdue. I participated in a sit-in on this Floor to try to galvanize the Congress. It didn’t work. Sadly, it didn’t work. To the disappointment of the American people, it didn’t work.
“This comprehensive bill is the product of tireless efforts by many of our colleagues to address issues that contribute to our gun violence epidemic. I want to thank Robin Kelly and the Protecting Our Kids Act, crack down on gun traffickers who take guns where? Into the big cities and spread them around. They sell them, they don’t give them for free. But it’s the traffickers that break the laws, not of Chicago, but perhaps don’t break the laws of those where they bought multiple guns for those who can’t buy guns.
“Similarly, Representatives Cicilline and Espaillat pushed for provisions that would regulate illusive ghost guns. I chaired the Treasury-Postal Committee that oversaw the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms division, and we couldn’t even make sure that ordinance, bullets, could be traced – because the NRA was opposed. Representative Titus ensured that it would ban bump stocks, a weapon component that allowed a gunman to kill 60 people in Las Vegas in 2017 and wound hundreds more. Was he a hunter? Was he a sportsman?
“Additionally, this bill would restrict high capacity magazines, which enables shooters to inflict maximum destruction in the minimum amount of time thanks to language included by Representative Deutch. Because of Chairwoman DeLauro, Chairwoman Jackson Lee and Representative Slotkin, this bill also protects our kids from gun violence at home, by implementing gun storage safety standards. Common sense, common purpose, protecting our kids. This act also includes Representative Anthony Brown’s measure to raise the legal age for purchasing assault weapons and shotguns from 18 to 21. You can buy an AR-15, apparently, or some other multiple-shot, quick shot weapon, but you can’t buy a drink, in many jurisdictions. Is that common sense?
“This legislation never would have come together without the leadership of Chairman Nadler. Thank you, Chairman, for your leadership and I thank the Committee for their work on this bill. Chairwoman Jackson Lee of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Chairman Thompson of the Gun Violence Task Force. Thank you, Chairman Thompson.
“This bill, as well as additional legislation from Representatives McBath and Carbajal, that will be considered subsequently, on Thursday, takes major steps forward to make our communities and our children safer. Is it perfect? Will it stop all killings? It won’t. We know that. Is there a perfect answer? No. Is making schools safer bad? No. We support that. I don’t know that we support making them into armed camps, as some would suggest because I think that would make them less safe in many respects.
“So, I urge all of my colleagues to put our country, our constituents and our kids first. Let us rise above party and partisanship and special interests, as we seek to do what is right and what is necessary and what an overwhelming majority of the American people are looking to Congress to achieve. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Represent the people?
“I’m hopeful we can find a bipartisan path forward to enact long overdue reforms to make our communities safer from gun violence. Because a bullet doesn’t care about your race, your faith, your age, your orientation, or any other factor. And, yes, people do care about those things and manifest it in the worst way possible, but they do it with an instrument that will allow them to kill a lot of people very quickly. The American people care what we do here today. The American people care that their Congress is doing everything possible to keep them safe, to keep our children safe. The American people care. Each of us today has a chance to show that we care. God’s work on Earth must truly be our own. Vote for this bill. Make our kids and communities and people safer. And I yield back.”