WASHINGTON, DC — Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.R. 1808, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022. Below is a transcript of his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here for a link to the video.
“I thank the gentleman for yielding. This, of course, is an emotional debate. Some have talked about fear and they instill fear in the process. As Mr. Nadler has pointed out, no weapons are taken away. A number of Members on the other side of the aisle have gotten up and said this is an unconstitutional bill. Yet, from 1994 to 2004, that bill was tested in the courts.
None of those courts found that unconstitutional. In the Heller case, which has been quoted over and over again, a very simple statement was made by that super liberal, Antonin Scalia. He said, like most rights, the rights secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever for whatever purposes. One indication of that, of course, is that we have a ban on machine guns in America.
“Now, one could answer, well, they’re not in common use. That’s correct because they’re banned. 67% of Americans support an assault weapon ban, 53%, over half, strongly support and another 14% somewhat support for a total of 67%. That’s in a poll by Morning Consult on May 25, 2022. There was another poll by Pew in September of ‘21 that said that 63% of Americans support [a ban on assault weapons].
Both polls, over 60% of Americans, over 2/3 of Americans think this action makes sense. I am sure the Founders, as they were discussing the Second Amendment, debated whether we ought to have mass rapid-fire weapons covered by the Second Amendment. They had no idea such weapons certainly didn’t exist, and they acted within the framework of the times in which they lived.
“Mr. Speaker, Congress must take action today to protect all Americans from dangerous and deadly assault weapons. If we do so we will still be the country that has the most weapons per capita in the world. More weapons than people which would seem to think, therefore, we ought to be the least dangerous nation if the premise there are more people that are armed the less crime we’ll have. seems a little counterintuitive to me.
The weapons that we’re talking about are able to kill large numbers rapidly: used to kill 6 adults and 20 children at Sandy Hook, used to kill 61 people in Las Vegas, used to kill 19 students and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas, just a few weeks ago. From Aurora to Orlando, San Bernardino to Buffalo, El Paso, and Highland Park, they have been mentioned today and we ought to mention them on a regular basis to remind us.
“We have watched assault weapons inflict mass destruction in our communities time and time and time again. Not only do these weapons claim the lives of innocent civilians, they frequently kill members of law enforcement who’ve worked to keep their communities safe.
That’s why law enforcement largely, not at all, support this bill because they see that as one of the greatest dangers to their lives. Indeed, one study by the Violence Policy Center found nearly a quarter of all police officers who were killed in the line of duty from 2016 to 2019 were killed by the same firearms that would be outlawed under this ban. Of those police officers killed by those assault weapons, almost a quarter of them were wearing body armor that was nevertheless penetrated by a bullet.
“These types of attacks and police killings are not inevitable. We know there’s a better way. We know that because these attacks became far less common when an overwhelmingly bipartisan coalition, overwhelmingly bipartisan coalition; this was not some Democratic bill.
It was a bipartisan bill. I’ll speak more of that in just a second. We came together in 1994 to pass a ban, including 46 House Republicans. That measure had support from law enforcement and from both Democratic and Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan. After Republicans were in control of Congress, they allowed that ban to expire in 1994 – mass shootings tripled.
“Today, I’m pleased to bring Mr. Cicilline’s bill to the Floor to reinstate a bill that’s been taken to the court already. This legislation would prohibit the possession and manufacture, sale, transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons and high high-capacity magazines. It does not take away from citizens. To be clear, we are not undermining the Second Amendment.
I am for a person having the right to have a weapon, not only to hunt but in his home, in his business, to protect himself and his family, and to carry upon his person where authorized. This will not lead to the confiscation of firearms, notwithstanding the fear that’s been expressed, weapons that were legally purchased before its enactment. However, it will set safety requirements. Doesn’t that make sense? We have safety requirements for our cars. Doesn’t it make sense to have safety requirements for weapons that can kill?
“Additionally, this legislation will provide funding for buy-back programs for those who would prefer to be responsible neighbors and community members and relinquish their assault weapons voluntarily. Voluntarily. but, of course, our N.R.A. friends have this slippery slope concept that anything we do, even banning cop-killer bullets, goes too far because the next step and the next step and the next step.
“These common sense reforms will save the lives of law enforcement officers and innocent Americans across the country. The Speaker spoke that we’re going to bring additional community safety legislation to the Floor to support our police because as much as the Republicans would like to say we Democrats are for defunding the police, it is absolutely incorrect and false and they know it. Why do they know it? Because we bring appropriations bills to this Floor which fund the police, not only at the national level, but at the state and local level as well which gives lie to the assertion that we are — Some people use that comment.
Look in the mirror, folks. There are some people on your side of the aisle who say absurd things. There are many people on both sides of the aisle who say let’s support and protect police. This is a way to do it. Today, we have an opportunity to put votes behind our words and show who is ready to do exactly that.
“Now, I will hope my Republican friends and Democratic friends and my fellow Americans will listen to the quote that I am about to give from a President that used to be revered on the Republican side of the aisle but is now not looked at as such a reverential figure. Ronald Reagan said this, ‘Listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.’ A moment of silence is not enough.
I should have counted how many moments of silence we have had on this Floor this year and lamented the loss of children and the elderly and everybody in between because of a weapon that is designed to kill a lot of people quickly.
No more moments of silence.
Let’s act. Vote yes. Pass this bill.”