Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held a hearing today entitled, "Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action." The hearing focused on preventing future gun violence and featured experienced panelists with expertise in finding solutions to preventing gun violence in America. Below are the Leader's opening remarks:
"Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all very much for joining us on this very solemn and important occasion for the American people. Just over one month ago, our nation was shocked and horrified by the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children, six teachers and educators were taken from us at gunpoint. An act of senseless and incomprehensible violence struck at the heart of our families, of our schools, of our communities across the country.
"Earlier this month, shortly after Newtown, all Members of Congress took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people. To protect and defend: that is our first responsibility. Today, leaders of the House Democratic Caucus have come together to fulfill that duty, to confront the challenge of gun violence in our society, to act to ensure the safety and security of our communities.
"Under the leadership of Congressman Thompson, Mike Thompson, our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force keeps growing in number. Our colleagues are submitting recommendations for legislation. The task force is working with outside organizations, and sharing the latest information on gun violence and the steps we can take, and must take to end it.
"Today, to strengthen the efforts of this task force and our Democratic Caucus, we will hear from Americans with personal and professional experiences with gun violence -- and with critical expertise on how and why we must prevent it. It's really an emotional occasion for many here; we thank them for sharing their grief to help other people be safe, [for] sharing their experience, to help us all honor our oath of office. Our witnesses hail from every walk of life -- education and academia, law enforcement and public service. We are extraordinarily grateful to have with us: Dr. Janet Robinson, Superintendent of Schools, Newtown, Connecticut; Dr. Emily Nottingham, Mother of Gabe Zimmerman -- whom you know was a victim in Tucson nearly two years ago; Chief Scott Knight, Chaska Police Department, here from Minnesota, to give us the view from middle America, from rural areas; and Mayor Michael Nutter, President of U.S. Conference of Mayors, who has been a leader on this issue for a very long time. Your voices and your contributions are playing a critical role in our effort to take these long overdue actions, we look forward to hearing your ideas and testimony, and answering the call to action on gun violence prevention.
"We are especially pleased to be doing so on a day when our President, as we continue to mourn with the families of Newtown, has told us that the time for action is now. We must do everything in our power to stop such terrifying violence in the future. We recognize that these challenges are not new. And as President Obama said so eloquently in the days following the shooting: "we can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,' he said.
"And today the President put his proposals on the table. He outlined 23 executive actions his administration is taking right now. He demanded action from Congress on establishing a universal background check system, restoring the ban on assault weapons, banning high-capacity assault magazines, putting more police officers on our streets. We must address issues of mental health -- to keep weapons out of the hands of those in danger of doing harm to themselves or to others. These commonsense proposals, among others, represent steps we can take, and must take right away to put a stop to the violence. As the President said today: "this time must be different.' We agree. We cannot permit any more time to go by without action. We owe it to the families of the victims in Newtown, in Aurora, Oak Creek, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine -- the list goes on almost every day across our country and shootings across America.
"I'm very pleased to turn the meeting now over to the Co-Chairs of our Steering and Policy Committee, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Congressman Rob Andrews. I'm pleased to be joined by our Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman John Conyers, and the Chair of our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Congressman Mike Thompson, as we thank you Mike, for your leadership. And we are also joined by our distinguished Whip Steny Hoyer.
"With that, I'm going to yield to Steny for a moment and then to our Co-Chairs."