Hoyer: As We Mark Six-Month Anniversary Of Newtown Tragedy, Congress Has A Responsibility To Act

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Transcript: 

“I rise to join the Leader. I rise to join Congresswoman Esty and Congressman Thompson in recognizing this sad anniversary.

“Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that we mark the six-month anniversary, tomorrow, of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. On that day, as has been repeated and must be remembered, Americans were united in shock and grief at the senseless murder by a crazed gunman of twenty-six innocent people – twenty innocent first graders and six courageous school staff members who tried to protect them and helped save the lives of others.

“Since that day, approximately 4,500 – the Leader mentioned 5,000, but a figure in excess of 4,500 – Americans have died as a result of gun violence, according to the Newtown Action Alliance. Mr. Speaker, this is not just a tragedy; it is a epidemic – one that Congress has a moral responsibility to address. When nine out of ten Americans support stricter background checks to keep dangerous guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness, there is no reason why Congress shouldn't be able to take swift and decisive action to enact tougher protections.

“I was deeply disappointed, Mr. Speaker, that the Senate failed to move forward with legislation to protect Americans from gun violence by enacting effective background checks that safeguard the constitutional rights of responsible owners and safeguard Americans. The American people are demanding action, and the House now has a chance to succeed where the Senate failed.

“Demonstrating that commonsense proposals to reduce gun violence can indeed command bipartisan support, Democratic Representative Mike Thompson of California, who chairs the House Democratic Task Force on Gun Violence, and my friend, Republican Representative Peter King of New York, have joined together to introduce legislation in this chamber similar to that which was blocked in the Senate. There is not a single provision in their bill that should be worrisome to those concerned about our long-standing tradition of protecting Second Amendment rights. Not a single provision. And it will help us keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous and mentally unstable individuals likely to do harm to others or themselves.

“Will it keep all of us safe all the time? It will not. We know that. That is the tragic fact of life. But will it help? It will. And if we can help, should we? And the answer is an emphatic yes.

“This proposal contains commonsense proposals that I strongly support and that most Americans have supported as well. Congress has the opportunity to get this right by considering the Thompson-King legislation in the House and sending it to the Senate for consideration.

“I congratulate Congresswoman Esty in particular, as well as Congressman Thompson, for their leadership and efforts in this regard. After the backlash many senators received for opposing expanded background checks, I suspect that a number may be ready to reconsider.

“Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to come together as Representatives Thompson and King have done to advance this bipartisan solution to this pressing challenge facing our nation, not just the Congress, but every American. It should not take – it must not take – another tragedy such as Newtown for us to act. We have a responsibility to keep our neighborhoods and our schools safe, and I urge Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to allow this bill to come to the Floor for a vote.

“The Speaker often says that he wants to allow the House to work its will. That's why the people of Newtown sent Congresswoman Esty to Congress. That's why the people of my district and every district represented in this House, people sent them here to vote on policies. Policies to make their country better. Policies to make their country more safe. The memories of those children, the memories of those teachers, the memories of those twenty-six – yes, the memories of those 4,500 plus, who since the Newtown tragedy have lost their lives to gun violence – their memory, Mr. Speaker, demands and deserves action by their Representatives.”