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Public Statements

Second Amendment Rights

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mrs. HARTZLER. When I was 10 years old, I got my first job. It would require skill and perseverance and patience, and it would have a real potential economic impact on our family hog farm. My dad hired me. He paid me 15 cents a unit.

What was my job? It was shooting sparrows around our farm. At that time, there was a disease going around rural America, and sparrows were taking it from farm to farm. So it had a real practical purpose.

But, as I'm a parent now, I look back on it. I used to tag around with my dad all the time, and I wonder maybe if he just kind of wanted to give me something to do, in addition to a job.

But I had a lot of fun that summer going around the grain bins and the sheds on our farm and our buildings and trying to catch that bird unawares. And I think over the entire summer, I may have earned around 45 cents. So it wasn't a big moneymaker, but I sure had a lot of fun.

And I learned some important things. I learned that using firearms can be a fun hobby and hunting can be fun; also, that using firearms can have a real practical purpose. And over the years, I've shot a lot of different kind of firearms now and different sizes, but I really appreciate what our Founding Fathers did when they established our Second Amendment and gave us that as our basic right.

This afternoon, my colleagues and I want to highlight not only why the Second Amendment is important to us and to the people in our districts, but how it is also important to this country. We want to dispel the myths that decisions about how to address violence are based on facts and not emotions.

As a lifelong gun owner as well as a former public schoolteacher, I appreciate the thoughtful discussion that our country has been having after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart has gone out to those families, as I know everyone in America's heart has, and our prayers as well. We want to understand the desire to stop the violence. I share that goal but believe that many of the proposals being put forth miss the mark. So let's look at some of the proposals and compare them to the facts.

One proposal that is being talked about and has been talked about is to ban what's called assault rifles. Well, the fact is that lawbreakers ignore the laws. Banning firearms would only take guns away from our law-abiding citizens and ensure that lawbreakers have guns.

I was watching TV a couple of weeks ago, and I saw the sponsor of the Senate bill to ban these assault rifles and she was giving a rationale why she thought it was important. She was saying, Well, gangs in California have assault rifles, and we've got to get these off the streets and out of the hands of our gang members, so we need to pass this bill. And I just kind of scratched my head and thought, Do you really believe that gang members are going to listen and pay attention to a law that Washington, D.C., passes? They break laws every day. I really can't see them getting together and having an organizational meeting and saying, Well, let's have the legislative report and have the gentleman, the gang member, say, Well, they passed a new law in D.C., so I guess we can't use assault rifles anymore.

We've got to look at the facts about whether passing this law would really address violence. In this case, it certainly wouldn't.

As far as that legislation, also the word ``assault'' is an adjective. It is not a gun. What gun control advocates call an assault rifle is actually a regular rifle with only a few cosmetic differences on the outside, such as a pistol grip, a hand guard, and a removable magazine. It is misleading to label firearms with negative words in order to advance a gun control agenda.

The fact is that more deaths have been inflicted using fists and knives and baseball bats than with a gun. In fact, one-and-a-half times as many homicides are committed with blunt objects such as a baseball bat, over two times as many homicides with fists, and five times as many with knives.

So why aren't proponents of bans on firearms calling baseball bats assault baseball bats or assault knives? Well, the reason is because the American people know that objects are only tools of people who wish to do others harm. They are not the cause. Now, it's a slogan, it's a bumper sticker, but it is true: guns don't kill people; people do.

So that's one proposal that I think misses the mark.

Another proposal is to create universal background checks. Well, the fact is that the vast majority of gun sales already have background checks with the sale, because all firearm sales through dealers must complete the instant background check. The only transactions that do not require the background checks are sales between individual gun owners; and they are not the problem. Requiring law-abiding citizens to have to go to a dealer and get a background check on their neighbor in order to sell him a gun would do little to stop mass killings.

Imposing the new law would not have stopped the Sandy Hook killer. He stole the guns he used to carry out his evil scheme. The same with the Aurora, Colorado, shooter in the movie theater. He actually had passed a background check. So passing a new law like this does not really address the issue.

It's time for all of us to address the real issue of how to protect our children and schools rather than to use a tragedy to impose more government control on law-abiding citizens or infringe on our Second Amendment rights.

Several of my colleagues are going to join me today to share their insights into why the Second Amendment matters to them and their constituents, and to discuss how to address the real issues of violence in our country.

I would like to start off with my fellow colleague from the great State of Missouri (Mr. Luetkemeyer). So gentleman, what would you like to share about our Second Amendment rights?


Mrs. HARTZLER. I thank you, gentleman. I think well said there. Our rural heritage is based on our Second Amendment rights, and well said.

Certainly, being from Missouri, I appreciate your work--and we've worked together on this. This is a very real concern. I call it the Department of Revenue debacle.

I certainly appreciate State Senator Kurt Schaefer and others there in Missouri who have been on the forefront of getting to the bottom of this and how our conceal-carry list was released to Federal authorities without all of the permissions and all of the safety guards in place. That is very, very disturbing. So thank you for your work on that and for your comments.

I would now like to yield to a new Member here, who has just hit the ground running and who brings so much to our whole delegation with his service. I appreciate the gentleman from New York (Mr. Collins), and I would be happy to yield time to you, gentleman.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Thank you, gentleman. That is well said. Tragedies should not be used for political gain. That is so true. We want to get at the heart of what causes violence and how to protect children, and not just pass laws that wouldn't even address the problem.

I'm glad to see my colleague from South Dakota here. She is quite a champion of gun rights. We're looking forward to hearing your comments, lady, about the Second Amendment.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Thank you, lady. It was sure important, I think, that those voices from South Dakota would be heard and how it is a part of a heritage of so many people in this country and how it has very practical and real benefits to the citizens. We need to focus on solutions that are based on facts and not emotions.

One thing that the lady talked about is that it is a constitutional right. And I wanted to just reiterate that the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that gun ownership is an individual right. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court held that D.C.'s complete gun ban infringes on the Second Amendment rights of the D.C. citizens, and it clarified that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental individual right to have a firearm in the home.

So this isn't something just that was talked about and established years ago when our country was founded; it has been upheld recently. We are very thankful for that and want to continue to protect that right.

We have a gentleman here from Texas, who I'm sure knows all about rights and wants to share a little bit about Texas views on why it's important to have our Second Amendment rights. This is Blake Farenthold, and I yield to the gentleman.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Thank you very much, BLAKE. I'll look forward to hearing how it goes in August with your daughter there.

I think you made a really great point about the important role of protection and how firearms provide a very practical and very, very vital role in self-protection. Estimates range anywhere from 83,000 times a year up to perhaps 1 million times a year citizens of this country use firearms in order to protect themselves. In Missouri, let me share with you just a couple of examples.

In 2008, there was a woman in Cape Girardeau who endured a horrific crime. Someone broke into her apartment through a window and she was raped. Two days later she came home and that person was there again. She had the window repaired, but they were there. This time, though, she was prepared. She had borrowed a friend's shotgun, and she protected herself this time with the shotgun and the outcome was totally different and the person is in jail now.

There's another example in Kansas City. There was a man who had a restraining order against someone who was trying to do him harm. He entered his home and, once again, he was attacked by this person with a knife. But, thanks to having a gun in the home, he was able to stop him, and that person is behind bars as well.

We could go on with many, many examples, but Americans every day use their Second Amendment rights to protect and defend their families and themselves. It is so important that we keep that ability to do that. That's why our Founding Fathers established this right.

Now I would like to turn to my friend from Michigan, Tim Walberg, to share your thoughts on the Second Amendment. Gentleman, thank you for being here.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Thank you, Mr. Walberg. Well said.

I like how you point out that the right to life is tied to the Second Amendment--to be able to defend ourselves and protect that life. That is so true. Also, it's not a safety issue. In fact, violent crime has dropped by 72 percent since 1993 in this country; and, actually, there has been a 47 percent increase in U.S. households that have guns. We now have 47 percent of us who own a gun, and crime has gone down. So an excellent point there.

I would like to yield to my friend from Louisiana, Representative Steve Scalise. He is a champion of our Second Amendment.

Thank you for coming.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Thank you very much, Steve.

It's very helpful, I think, to be reminded of the firsthand account of what can happen and what did happen in Louisiana when the government came to take the guns away from the citizens there. We don't ever want to see that happen again because, like you said, it's imperative for personal protection besides its being a personal right. So thank you for sharing that. I appreciate it.


Mrs. HARTZLER. Absolutely. Very well said. I appreciate your comments, and I'm so glad you brought Payton and Preston along. I was sharing earlier that I got my start on the farm with my BB gun as well. I'm glad to hear you're well on your way to having a lot of years of fun hunting and doing it safely with your father teaching you.

My friend from Indiana brought up so many great points. The quotes from the Founding Fathers really bring home what this is all about and why it is so important that we as a country retain the right as citizens to be able to protect ourselves, not just from individuals, but from the government even. Well said there.

As far as the Senate vote, I think you brought up an excellent point as well, that the American people really did speak. I think overwhelmingly the American people understand that taking away guns or putting new restrictions on law-abiding citizens is not going to address the problems of violence in our society, and it would not have prevented the tragedy that occurred in Connecticut or any of the other shootings that we have experienced. So we need to, as I said earlier, focus on the facts and not on emotions.

I wanted to share with you some of the comments from people in my district. I think lots of times people in the country have the pulse of what is common sense and what is wise policy for our country, more so than in the heat of the moment sometimes with some things that have gone on here at the Capitol.

This is an example from Samantha of what happened recently in our district in Randolph County, and I think she has a very interesting perspective on this. She said:

I am a citizen of Randolph County, and on Easter Sunday, two men went on a crime spree in our area and shot two very close friends of mine, pistol whipped an elderly lady, and killed a woman from Moberly. These suspects were on the run from police for over 12 hours, including overnight. The residents of this area didn't sleep well not knowing what was going on. Houses were on lockdown. It was a horrible feeling knowing the armed men were able to get away from police officers for several hours and not knowing where they would go next.

As a mother, I was terrified for my family. Knowing that we were protected in case these perpetrators came in our neighborhood was the only thing that made that night even bearable. Please vote to keep our Second Amendment rights. It is our right to protect ourselves from these criminals who will always be able to get guns no matter what they do, such as drugs, because drugs are illegal as well. If they want them, they will get them. Let normal, law-abiding citizens keep their guns to protect themselves. We should not have them taken away because there are people who are irresponsible for them. Those people will get guns no matter what, but law-abiding citizens need to be able to protect our families. It is our right, just as freedom of speech is, and should not be taken away.

Well said, Samantha. I think that is a perfect example of what happens potentially when a crime is occurring, and how important it is for families to be able to defend themselves in that event.

Here's a comment from Carol from Lowry City. She said in an email to me:

By definition, criminals do not care about laws. They will acquire guns and whatever weapon they want to use for their nefarious activity regardless of what the law is. The only thing that this unconstitutional gun grab will do is put innocent, law-abiding citizens in harm's way by preventing them from protecting themselves, their property and their family. If stringent gun control which stripped Second Amendment rights from the people were the answer to alleviating violence, then the city of Chicago would be a model of safety. Instead, Chicago, which has some of the most strict gun control laws in the Nation, led the country in number of deaths related to firearms at 532. The people could not protect themselves against the criminal activity around them, and many paid for it with their lives.

I wanted to share some statistics from the World Health Organization. It lists, and you probably can't see it, but two pages' worth of countries here that have a higher percentage of murders per 100,000 citizens than we do. You have countries everywhere from the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama, Brazil, Greenland, Costa Rica, Russia, British Virgin Islands, Philippines, Uruguay, Thailand, and on and on. Two pages of countries that have very high murder rates, and yet here is the United States below all of them. And you know what all of these other countries have in common? All of these countries have banned guns 100 percent from their citizens.

So this validates what Carol from Lowry City said to me in her email, that when you take guns away from individuals, crime rates actually go up because criminals will have the guns and the law-abiding citizens won't be able to protect themselves. I thought that was a really good point that she makes.

Here's a comment in an email from Vicki Jo from Clinton, Missouri. She said:

I would like you to know that I do not support more regulations on any guns, accessories, or ammunition. These items are only tools some people choose to use as weapons against others. I feel the Second Amendment gives me the freedom to own and operate any firearm that I choose. I'm a hunter and, if needed, would use my firearms for protection from harm. I feel that more attention needs to be spent on those dealing with mental illness and pose a threat to others' welfare. We law-abiding citizens don't need more laws to take more freedoms away from us. Please pursue the violators of these crimes and not their ill-chosen tools.

Well said.

Larry from Mexico, Missouri, said:

Guns can do no harm by themselves. They are no more harmful than any large vehicle like a truck or bus that has mass or weight as a part of their structure.

It's interesting that Larry would say that because yesterday I saw a clip on the news of someone who actually went after someone else in a car. The other person was on a bicycle, and they tried to kill them. They were able to save the person. Thankfully, he wasn't hurt, but they are still looking for the person in the car. So are we going to ban cars because they can be used to kill people? Of course not, because what we need to do is find the person who was trying to commit the crime.

Continuing on, Larry says:

Sick individuals can take any truck and drive it into a school or mall, killing our loved ones just as a gun can. I don't want anyone to be hurt or die, but feel that this path of legislation is wrong. As others have suggested, we need to focus on people. People are the motor driving the gun, truck, bus or any other object. The focus has to become helping the mentally ill.

And we have Jessica from Warrensburg. She said:

If a fraction of the time, energy, money and passion that went into debating gun control went toward establishing a more efficient national or State mental health outreach campaign, perhaps we would have less heartbreaking tragedies involving individuals who felt unheard, isolated, and alienated. A commonly heard phrase is guns don't kill people, people kill people. If that is true, What are we doing to help people?

I think that brings up the point of mental health issues in our country and how we should be focusing more on these killers and what caused them or led them to do it. What about violent video games? If you look at the Newtown, Connecticut, shooter as well as the Aurora, Colorado, shooter, Madam Speaker, you'll find that both of them spent an inordinate amount of time playing violent video games where they actually were carrying out scenarios of shooting people. How come we aren't hearing proposals talking about that from gun control advocates or from those who say that they want to do this to help children. Let's get to the heart of the issue here.

We have Kelly from Sedalia who adds:

The one thing all of these misguided proposals have in common is that they won't reduce crime. Criminals by definition are law breakers. They are not deterred by laws against murder, rape, armed robbery, et cetera; and they won't be affected by additional gun control laws on top of the tens of thousands of existing laws we have on the books at every governmental level. Again, I urge you to oppose any and all anti-gun legislation that will simply penalize law-abiding gun owners and instead focus on improvements to our Nation's mental health system and enhancing school security while respecting our Second Amendment rights.

The gentleman from Indiana brought up some really good points awhile ago, and we share a lot in common. We both come from a farm background, and we both still have a farm today. We both have children still in school, and we enjoy sharing our heritage. I say to the gentleman, my daughter, we've had a lot of fun with her, teaching her how to shoot a gun and going out also in our pasture. We have an area that we've blocked off, and we target shot, and it's a lot of fun and she enjoys it. But just as importantly as it being enjoyable, I think just being familiar with guns and for the potential of having self-protection is so important, as well. And I know you would agree.


Mrs. HARTZLER. It's certainly a deterrent, I think, from any government who would want to take on their citizens. And you look at this list that I was sharing, two pages of people and countries who have very high murder rates. I feel for the people of those countries.

I can't imagine what that would be like to live in a country where you're basically helpless. You and your family are helpless. You are totally open to and vulnerable to anyone, whether it's somebody in government, a rogue government, or a criminal who wants to do yourself or your family harm, and you don't have that ability to protect yourself.


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