WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of S. 2938, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Below is a transcript of his remarks and a link to the full video:
Click here for a link to the video.
“For years, the gun violence epidemic in our country has forced us to cope with the immeasurable grief and loss. Throughout America, many communities have begun to erect memorials to remember those they have lost through gun violence. These monuments are not much different than those right outside the National Mall that honor Americans killed in war.
“Just last week, people in San Bernardino, California, unveiled a ‘curtain of courage’ made of steel and bronze to pay tribute to the sixteen people who were murdered in a mass shooting there in 2015. In Newtown, Connecticut, a planned memorial will feature a spiral of granite inscribed with the names of the twenty children and six teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Memorials are being built or planned as well to honor those who died in shootings in Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, El Paso, Buffalo, Uvalde, and many others.
“The best way, I suggest, to honor those we have lost to gun violence, however, is not with bronze or with steel or with granite; rather, it is with meaningful action to prevent others from suffering the same fate.
“The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by the United States Senate, which I am pleased to bring to the Floor today, is a step in the right direction to take action. This legislation includes measures that will reduce the threat from gun violence and save lives across the country. It will help implement ‘red-flag’ laws that empower law-enforcement officers to keep guns out of the hands of people at risk of using them to harm themselves or others.
“Closing the so-called ‘boyfriend loophole’ in this bill will prevent people convicted of domestic abuse in a dating relationship from possessing deadly firearms. They have displayed violence. They ought to be prohibited from getting weapons, which will make mass violence more probable and possible. It will also require more-thorough background checks for Americans under the age of twenty-one who seek to purchase a gun. Now, we passed expanded background checks through this House. Eighty-five percent of the American people say they're for that, and that's the minimum. But no action has been taken in the United States Senate. But they have taken some action, and some action is better than no action. Additionally, this legislation includes $250 million in funding for community-based violence-prevention programs. Do we not want to see community violence diminished? And it will also crack down on those who make ‘straw purchases’ – purchases of large portions of guns that, otherwise, under the existing system, could not be purchased by the ultimate user of those guns.
“I want to thank Sen. Murphy, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Rep. Lucy McBath, Rep. Robin Kelly, Chairman Mike Thompson of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and those Republicans who said that N.R.A. does not stand for ‘No Republican Action.’ They took action. They stood up, even in the face of boos from their own party. This legislation, as I said, is a step forward, and that's how we make progress in America: a step at a time. None of us have had the opportunity ever to vote on a perfect bill in this House. We vote on good bills, bills that we feel will move our country forward. This is that kind of bill – a step forward, but not enough. Many of us feel that we need to do more. We need to do comprehensive background checks. We need to close the Charleston loophole. We sent those bills to the Senate. We can and must do more.
“Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will weaken commonsense gun-safety laws all over the country. Yes, we could return to the OK Corral and everybody having a six-shooter on their hip – and anybody who thinks that would make us a safer, more-civil community, I think, is sadly mistaken. That fact ought to disturb all of us very deeply. The Court's decision to make it even easier for bad actors to carry dangerous concealed guns without restrictions should serve as a reminder that we need to take additional active steps to protect our communities and our kids – actions that are supported by the overwhelming majority of the American people.
“If we fail to do that – if we allow this legislation to be the end instead of the beginning – parents will continue to receive that dreaded, unfathomable call that they will never see their children again. New monuments honoring victims will continue to pop up in communities across the country. Ladies and gentlemen of this House, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals: we don't need additional memorials. We need action. We need new laws.
“If we can follow today's legislation with action on comprehensive background checks and further gun-safety measures, however, future generations – perhaps not guaranteed, but it is certainly worth the effort to reduce the gun violence, to reduce the need for memorials – if we do not, those who come after will wonder why their forebears allowed such violence to be perpetrated uniquely in America. You don't find this in other countries, democratic countries, free countries, who protect individual rights. Ladies and gentlemen of this House, today, in just a few minutes, let us begin to end the cycle of tragedy and inaction. Let us pass this bill and say: ‘no more.’ Let us pass it and then do more. Vote ‘yes.’”