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Public Statements

Gun Violence

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to compliment the gentleman from Wisconsin and the freshman Members who participated in the last hour for a job well done in underscoring what the sequester means to Americans across the country.

I'm going to shift gears now as I'm joined by my good colleague from Virginia (Mr. Moran). We're going to talk about gun violence.

Those of us who've been victims of gun violence see horrific pictures in our minds over and over again. Mine was over 30 years ago, but I am still haunted by visuals of that day: my leg being blown up, my arm being blown up, and really thinking that I was going to die.

When you look death in the eye, there's a certain clarity that comes to you, a certain clarity about what's important, a certain fearlessness to deal with issues that maybe you wouldn't have dealt with under other circumstances.

Now I am haunted by more recent events in Newtown. I'm haunted by the story told by Veronique Pozner about little Noah, her son.

Little Noah was shot 11 times. A little child was shot 11 times. She made a point of having an open casket at his funeral for one reason, because this is not just about numbers. This is about human beings. This is about visualizing what happens when someone is gunned down.

She had an open casket, and she invited the Governor of Connecticut to the funeral because she wanted the Governor to see this little cherub face. She said it's not little angels going to Heaven. This little boy had his mouth blown off and his jaw gone and his hand gone. She wanted the Governor to remember that little face when legislation came to his desk.

It's time for all of us here in this House to stop thinking about numbers and start thinking about people. Yes, over 1,800 people have died since Newtown, and over 500 of them have been children. If we do nothing else but focus on the children in this country, that should call us to action.

I'm going to talk about a child, a child from my district, an infant, a 3-month-old infant. This infant was named Izak Jimenez. He was just a little tyke. His parents had come from the baby shower, had put him in his car seat, and the mother and the father with the 4-year-old child were in the front seat.

It was mistaken identity. Gang members--two young kids, 16 and 17 years of age--came and shot up their truck. They killed this little baby. They killed him. The parents were shot. The 4-year-old was spared. They were 16- and 17-year-old kids. When they were found, they had extra handguns. They're not legally allowed to have those handguns, but somehow they got them into their hands.

We are not debating the Second Amendment when we talk about gun violence prevention. The Second Amendment is secure. It's even more secure since the Heller decision, when the Heller Court said:

The Second Amendment guarantees every American the opportunity to have a gun for recreational purposes and to protect themselves in their homes, but having said that, it also provides government with the right to provide certain levels of regulation.

So what are those certain levels of regulation?

Why don't we start with something really simple, really straightforward, and that is universal background checks. Don't we want to make sure that people who go to gun dealers to buy guns legally have the right to buy the guns? That they're not felons? That they're not ex-felons? That they haven't been charged and convicted of drug trafficking? That they haven't been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, or that they haven't been adjudicated by a court as being mentally incompetent? Of course we do, and this number says it all. A Quinnipiac poll this month said that 92 percent of Americans believe that we should have universal background checks.

Why can't we come together--Republicans and Democrats, parents of small children and older children, people who have encountered on one level or another gun violence--and say, certainly, we can do this; certainly, we can have universal background checks so that guns don't get in the wrong hands, so that 16- and 17-year-old kids don't get a hold of a gun and then shoot up an innocent family?

So what does Wayne LaPierre say about that? This is pretty interesting.

Back in 1999, after Columbine, Wayne LaPierre was really clear about universal background checks. He said:

On behalf of the NRA, we think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show--no loopholes anywhere for anyone.

That's what he said in 1999.

Now, mind you, a recent poll by Frank Luntz--a Republican pollster--of just NRA members and non-NRA gun members, found that 74 percent of NRA members and 83 percent of gun owners support a universal background check. So did Wayne LaPierre in 1999.

What is he saying today?

Today, before Senator Leahy, when asked, ``You don't support background checks in all instances at gun shows?'' Mr. LaPierre responds, ``We do not because the fact is the law right now is a failure the way it is working. None of it makes any sense in the real world.''

I would submit to my good friend Mr. Moran that this is the real world and that we are dealing with real people. I know that you would like to comment, from your perspective, on the state of gun violence and the lack of gun violence prevention in this country.

Ms. SPEIER. Will the gentleman yield on that point?

Mr. MORAN. I yield to the gentlelady from California.

Ms. SPEIER. I was unaware that he had made that statement today.

In California, we have universal background checks. We have a universal background check for private sales in which you have to do it through a local gun dealer. Even with all of that burden, you might argue--if that's what the Judiciary chairman is arguing--that 600,000 guns were purchased last year in the State of California.

Mr. MORAN. I thank the gentlelady.

I believe that California's laws are far more sane than the laws of many other States, particularly the laws of my own State of Virginia.

The situation we have today is that over 40 percent--almost half--of the guns purchased in this country don't have to go through a background check; 6.6 million firearm sales occurred at gun shows and through private arrangements that didn't have to go through a background check. That's not even fair to the retail sellers, who have to require the background check and comply with the law.

It's almost as though you have two security lines at an airport--one in which you're going to have to stand and have the machine go around and check for metal and so on and then another line that you can just walk through without being checked. So which line would criminals choose?

Ms. SPEIER. And how is that equal protection under the law?

Mr. MORAN. It just doesn't seem to make sense.

This is a democracy. It would seem that we have some responsibility, regardless of our own views, to be responsive to the overwhelming opinion of the American people.

I'd like to share with my dear friend and colleague another interesting fact, and that is that auto deaths fell to 32,000 and that deaths from firearms, including suicides and accidents, are over 30,000. So they are roughly the same. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that by 2015 there will be significantly more deaths from firearms than deaths from motor vehicles. It has already occurred in Virginia. We had 875 reported firearm deaths in the last year compared to 728 motor vehicle deaths.

Now, with regard to motor vehicles, we have acted proactively in the form of seatbelt laws; we have improved safety standards for the manufacturers of the vehicles that are made in this country and for the vehicles that are sold in this country; we have harsher penalties for drunk driving, as well as having mandatory driver training classes. They've worked, and they've saved lives.

Why can't we do it with firearms? It seems wholly consistent with the appropriate way, the way that the American people want us to respond to a problem, and this is more than a problem. This is an extraordinary situation that demands action by this body.

So I would hope that regardless of the views of the chair of the Judiciary Committee, even of many of the Members, some of whom have an A rating from the NRA, that we would be responsive to the overwhelming majority of the American people, and even NRA members, and act responsibly.

In Virginia, we are one of the three States that are the principal source for trafficking of guns. Florida and Georgia are the other two. People go in oftentimes with straw purchasers, and they buy large quantities of guns. They put them in the trunk of their car and drive to a street corner in an urban area, and they sell them. And invariably they end up in criminal activity, oftentimes causing the deaths of people, many innocent people such as you observed earlier, Ms. Speier.

I want to thank the Congresswoman. She is a leader on this fight. It is a terribly important battle. We can't let it go. Time is not on our side. Time is on the side of the NRA. That's why invariably they have prevailed previously. We can't let that happen today. We can't let that happen now. The American people deserve more, and certainly the families of those very young victims at Newtown, Connecticut, deserve action on our part. I thank the gentlelady from California. You're a wonderful leader. Thank you for your courage and your leadership.

Ms. SPEIER. I thank the gentleman from Virginia for his articulate commentary about this issue.

You know, the time has come for all of us to stop quaking in our boots because the NRA leadership has spoken. You know, I've spoken to a number of my Republican colleagues over the last few weeks, and they are without any kind of rational reason for why they can't support one thing or another. Their beliefs have become so molded by what the leadership of the NRA says. Now the NRA leadership isn't reflecting the NRA membership, and that's what we've got to remember. The NRA membership supports universal background checks.

Let me share with you what Wayne LaPierre recently said, actually in a speech over the weekend, to continue to promote what I would call paranoia and fearmongering. He was talking about universal background checks, and he said:

It's aimed at registering your guns. And when another tragic opportunity presents itself, that registry will be used to confiscate your guns.

The American people know that's not true. A tragic opportunity, that's what he calls that horrific incident in Newtown, Connecticut. Opportunity? He has lost all sense of reality.

We owe it to every American to do something rational around gun violence prevention. And I am not going to stand here and be cowed by NRA leadership and not do what's right. And oh, yes, I have already gotten plenty of threatening Facebook pronouncements. I don't care. I owe it to Noah Pozner. I owe it to little Izak. I owe it to Gabby Giffords. I owe it to 32 Americans every day who get killed because of gun violence.

So let's move on and talk a little bit about an internal NRA memo. This memo lists national organizations with supposed antigun policies. Well, it's really kind of interesting when you look at this. This is the enemies list that the NRA has developed. There are lots of organizations and people's names on it. We just highlighted a few here.

The American Association of Retired Persons is on their enemies list. You've got to be kidding me.

Hallmark Cards. Now, I had to look long and hard to find out why Hallmark Cards would be on the enemies list for the National Rifle Association. I guess 20 years ago they contributed to an initiative to try and prevent a mandatory conceal and carry in a State, and that put them on the enemies list.

The YWCA, the Young Women's Christian Association; the Anti-Defamation League, and many other Jewish organizations, I might add; the League of Women Voters, the organization promoting all of the smart voting that goes on in this country, all of the opportunities for all of us to be able to access our legislators. And then the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. These people, these organizations, can't all be wrong. But the NRA has put them on their enemies list.

Let me give you some other names you might find kind of interesting. These are celebrities, not organizations, but they include the likes of actress Lauren Bacall, Tony Bennett. Tony Bennett is on their enemies list. Is this taking us back to the McCarthy era? Sean Connery is on the enemies list. Michael Douglas, Billy Crystal, Kathie Lee Gifford, Leonard Nimoy, Mary Tyler Moore, John McEnroe, and Barry Manilow.

Now, come on. In this country, we would create a list, an organization would create a list of enemies because they support gun violence prevention?

Mr. Speaker, I'm dumbfounded by what goes on here from time to time. I'm particularly dumbfounded by the inability of this Congress and this House to stand up to the NRA leadership and stand up for America.

I'm going to close, Mr. Speaker, by memorializing two people in California that died yesterday, two Santa Cruz police officers in the line of duty, doing their job, going to a home to determine whether or not there had been some domestic altercation. Elizabeth Butler was a 10-year veteran with the Santa Cruz Police Department. Loran Baker, known as Butch, was a 28-year veteran of the Santa Cruz Police Department. It's a small town. It's a comfortable town. It's a loving town. It's an easygoing town. There are only 90 officers on their police force. They have never had a shooting death of a police officer in the history of that city. But yesterday, they lost two of them, by a man who had body armor on, loaded down with guns, who had been convicted in Oregon of a sex offense of sorts, and who had a gun and did not have a conceal permit. He comes down to California with his gun--shouldn't have had a gun because at that point he was an ex-felon--shoots two Santa Cruz police officers. Between them, they have five children.

Let's do it for the children of this country. Let's do it for law enforcement in this country. Let's do it for all of us so we can go to the mall and we can go to church and we can go to school and not be in fear of being mowed down by violence

I yield back the balance of my time.

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