Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats held a press conference today calling for the swift passage of the McCarthy-DeGette bill banning assault magazines. Below are the Leader's opening remarks:
"Good morning. As we mourn the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Members of Congress and all Americans have offered words of consolation to the families -- words of grief, of mourning, our prayers -- that no words are adequate to console the families of these children, and others, who were taken from us in an act of senseless, unspeakable violence.
"Here in Congress, what we need now are not more words; what we need is action. We must take action to protect our children from harm, to preserve the safety of our schools, and to keep our communities safe. We must take action so that we can tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent these tragedies from ever happening again. This morning, you will be hearing from Members of [Congress]. We're joined by our distinguished Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer, who's having a Whip meeting right now, so I know that you may not stay with us the entire time, Steny. But thank you for your leadership on this issue.
"As we know, the President said so eloquently on Sunday night: "we can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.' In Congress, we're blessed with the leadership of Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. She has brought to this debate her own loss in a senseless tragedy, her own experience as a health care professional, and her own even handedness to help make that change with legislation to ban assault weapons. Thank you, Carolyn, for your tremendous leadership and for the inspiration you are to all of us.
"Today, I am pleased to announce that Congressman Mike Thompson [has been selected] to head a new task force focused on reducing and preventing gun violence. He is a Vietnam vet, a wounded Vietnam vet I might add, an avid hunter, and he is ideally suited to lead the effort to channel all of the energy that you see here and more. Many of our Members are in committees, but their thoughts are with us, to channel this energy, work with the Administration, and to do so in a bipartisan way. These are the steps -- some steps that we all want to take, that Members have expressed, but we must go even further. Restoring the assault weapon ban; strengthening our background check system to ensure that dangerous firearms do not fall into the wrong hands -- yesterday, I met with the Brady [Campaign] and members of families who have experienced tragedies, that was a very high priority for them; addressing the issue of mental health to keep weapons out of the hands of those in the greatest danger of doing harm to themselves and to others; and addressing the issue of violence in our society. We're meeting with Congressman Bobby Scott, who has taken the lead on that issue, later in the day.
"Even as we tackle these concerns it is important to note these actions do not eliminate the need [for] a ban on assault weapons and on assault magazines -- high capacity additions that make any gun an assault weapon. And our colleagues will speak to that -- Ron Barber, who brings to this debate his own personal experience, which we will be observing the two year anniversary of -- has said it best, and you'll hear it from him.
"The tragedy in Newtown struck the hearts of every American. We have to respond. It's very complicated. This is hard. But we can get the job done, we calibrate the legislation in a way that really is effective. We mourn the loss of precious children. We're reading about their love of sports, their love of animals, their love of music. We mourn the loss of their teachers, their counselor, the principal of the school. We owe them, again, to do everything in our power to take sensible action to prevent gun violence, to ensure the safety of our schools and neighborhoods, and to build a future of safety for all Americans.
"With that now, I am very pleased to yield to Carolyn McCarthy, again, really, an inspiration to the nation on this subject.
"Thank you Carolyn."