Fighting Back: “Children are dying in our schools … all this Congress has to say is, let’s have a moment of silence.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference and the topic was the mass shooting in Florida and the weak Republican Party response to it. She was joined by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) who is the chair of the House Democrats Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

Nancy Pelosi:

Once again, we come together very sadly. Our hearts have been broken by the tragedy of gun violence, this time Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Seventeen pronounced dead, more wounded. Innocent children sending terrified texts and goodbyes to their parents. We thank God for the heroism of the teachers, the school leaders, and our first responders running into harm’s way to save lives. […]

Children are dying in our schools, in our communities, on our streets. All this Congress has to say is, let’s have a moment of silence.

Mike Thompson:

If I was a Republican Member, I would be embarrassed that my Leadership wouldn’t address this issue. […] We were elected to deal with tough issues. And this is no different than any other tough issue. Somebody has to screw up the courage to be able to look at this issue and figure out what can Congress do. […]

And the idea that all of these shootings are mental health issues? I am sure that mental health factors in, but you can’t deflect by saying, ‘Oh, it is a mental health issue,’ and then turn around and work overtime trying to repeal the mental health programs that we have in place or put out a budget that cuts the mental health budget that we so desperately need across our United States of America.

The full transcript is below.

The Weekly Democratic Party Address was delivered by Senate Democrats Ron Wyden (OR), Bob Casey (PA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).

(Senate Democrats Deliver Weekly Democratic Address In New #GOPTaxScam Video)
blurb

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR): “Since Republicans jammed this massive corporate tax cut through Congress, major corporations have spent over $120 billion on stock buybacks. This is a problem for the middle class.”

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA): “What the American people want to know is: Will wages go up? Will pay go up? Will take home pay go up for folks? Not just over the course of the short term, but long term.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI): “This bill was not fair to the American people. And I can assure you that if Democrats come back in the majority after the November ‘18 elections, we will do our very best to correct the inequities in the bill.”

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Leader Nancy Pelosi’s weekly news conference on Thursday:

Transcript: Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference

Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks.

Good morning, everyone.

Once again, we come together very sadly. Our hearts have been broken by the tragedy of gun violence, this time Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Seventeen pronounced dead, more wounded. Innocent children sending terrified texts and goodbyes to their parents. We thank God for the heroism of the teachers, the school leaders, and our first responders running into harm’s way to save lives.

Once again, we see the urgency for Congress to take true common-sense action to prevent gun violence. Everyone is saying we need more information, and we do. And that is why I am very pleased to be joined here this morning by Congressman Mike Thompson. He is the chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He has served in the military, knows how to use guns. He is a hunter. He is a believer in the Second [Amendment] – well, he will speak to his own credentials.

I just want to say how proud we are of him for taking the lead over the years on this issue. And he has, recognizing that we have to have the facts and the data, has legislation calling for a Select Committee on Gun Violence. His bipartisan legislation to pass the Thompson‑King bill to strengthen background checks, it is bipartisan.

And, of course, how can you get the information if we do not allow the research to prevent gun violence? Children are dying in our schools, in our communities, on our street. All this Congress has to say is, let’s have a moment of silence.

So I sadly yield, with great gratitude, to Mr. Thompson and thank him for his leadership on this very important issue.

Mr. Thompson?

Congressman Thompson. Well, Leader Pelosi, thank you very much.

It is sad to be here once again after yet another tragedy involving guns.

The Leader pointed to three priority issues. And I want to just point out that, ever since Sandy Hook, when we first started trying to figure out what Congress could do to help prevent gun violence, the top priority was passing legislation to expand background checks.

And, as the Leader said, it is a bipartisan bill. I think in the last Congress we had 192, 195‑something coauthors, Democrats and Republicans. This year, in this Congress, again, it is bipartisan. Sadly, the number of Republicans on the bill have dropped. There are only three because there were some retirements. There has been some interest expressed by others to come on.

But for the last 5 years, this has been the number‑one issue – the number‑one issue. Now, today, the number‑one issue is create a select committee on gun violence, which I think is important.

But it is important to note for all of you that I introduced this bill out of utter frustration that the Republican leadership wouldn’t give us a hearing on the expanded background check bill. Every time we went to them, they had some excuse, some cockamamie excuse, to be specific.

And so, out of frustration, I said, ‘Well, great, you don’t like our ideas. Let’s do a Select Committee made up of Democrats and Republicans to address this issue and see if we can come to some suggestion, some ideas, some legislation that you do like, that you will allow a hearing on, you will allow us to take a vote on.’

So, sadly, since those little children were mowed down and murdered in Sandy Hook, the progress that we have seen is — we changed the priority. Now expanded background check is third on the list, and the select committee is first on the list. I think it is appalling. If I was a Republican Member, I would be embarrassed that my Leadership wouldn’t address this issue.

Thirty people every day are killed by someone using a gun, and the best we can do is say we need more information? Well, as the Leader said, I agree, we need all the information that we can get. So what do we do with it? Are we going to put it with all the information we got after the last shooting? Or maybe all the information we got after the shooting before that?

Because it seems to me you can’t turn around without there being a mass shooting. There have been 80 school shootings since this President was inaugurated. This is a crisis. There is not a parent or a grandparent in the United States of America who doesn’t feel concerned about the safety of their children or their grandchildren.

And we were elected to deal with tough issues. And this is no different than any other tough issue. Somebody has to screw up the courage to be able to look at this issue and figure out what can Congress do.

And, certainly, the expanded background check is a modest step in that direction. It has to be the first line of defense. If everybody says they don’t believe that criminals or the dangerously mentally ill should get guns, I certainly agree with that. Well, how do you prevent it from happening if you don’t do background checks?

And why would you impose background checks if you buy a gun through a federally licensed gun dealer but exclude people from going through a background check if they buy a gun at a gun show or online or, you know, down the street from the neighbor? It makes no sense at all.

And the idea that all of these shootings are mental health issues? I am sure that mental health factors in, but you can’t deflect by saying, ‘Oh, it is a mental health issue,’ and then turn around and work overtime trying to repeal the mental health programs that we have in place or put out a budget that cuts the mental health budget that we so desperately need across our United States of America.

And we know that background checks work. What is this President doing? He is proposing we cut $20 billion from the NICS [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] system, the electronic background check system – 20 percent cut in funding. And that is the only –

Leader Pelosi. Million, right?

Congressman Thompson. Twenty million.

And that is the only progress we have made. It was my amendment on the floor to add money to the NICS system, and now they want to take it away. They want to remove $20 million.

And we know there are huge problems with the NICS system. We saw that from the terrible shooting in Texas where the former Air Force man shot and killed a bunch of people in a church in Texas. We found out that he had problems that should have prohibited him from being a gun owner but his information wasn’t passed on to NICS.

And we saw in the last few days where the Air Force has stepped it up. They have added, I think, 4,000 entries into the NICS system of servicemembers who should be prohibited.

So there is a big void in there. So you are going to deal with it by taking $20 million away? It makes no sense. Congress needs to step up and do its job.

Leader Pelosi. I thank you for your leadership.

We will be continuing to meet on this subject to try to respond. But we shouldn’t be responding; we should be preventing, we should be anticipating and have common-sense approaches to prevent gun violence.

Ninety‑five percent, a poll I saw this morning on TV – you tell me if that is a reliable source – 95 percent said that they support background checks. And I happened to be here in the ’90s when we passed the Brady bill, part of the current bill in 1994. That was a fight. It was always a fight. And thank God for the Bradys. They were such an inspiration. And it was a very – made it a bipartisan effort.

And the background checks, that bill saved lives. And now technology has moved forward, so we have to make sure that guns purchased on the internet are subjected to the same scrutiny, those sales are subjected to the same scrutiny, as well as, as you mentioned, Congressman Thompson, at the gun shows.

This, it is so very, very sad. When we had the sit‑in in the Capitol, you may recall, a year and a half ago, the action taken by our Republican colleagues and leadership was to investigate who on the floor Periscoped, Facebooked, whatever technology they used, what was happening on the Floor to the public. That was their response to gun violence at the time.

So we will be meeting and hoping that the public will weigh in in a serious way. Because, again, the number of school – 80 this past year, in the year since – well, in the past year, let me just put it that way. But every day of the week, our country suffers from gun violence.

Do you have any questions on this?

Press questioning followed (see transcript)

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  1 comment for “Fighting Back: “Children are dying in our schools … all this Congress has to say is, let’s have a moment of silence.”

  1. JanF
    February 17, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Last Wednesday, House Democrats released their report on Election Security. This was before the indictments issued on Friday for 13 Russian nationals who attacked our 2016 election process.

    From the news conference:

    Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Members of the Congressional Task Force on Election Security for a press conference releasing its final report (PDF) including ten specific recommendations on what the federal government and states can and should be doing to secure our nation’s elections. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

    Leader Pelosi. The Election Security Task Force has produced a great document and legislation that can act upon the concerns we have. [,,,]

    It has been more than a year since the intelligence community presented its assessment to the world. The last was January 6th of last year. More than 13 months have gone by and we have not seen action taken that would be commensurate. Well, we need full accounting for Russia’s attacks on the 2016 election from this Administration too. The President and the House Republicans have done nothing.

    Of course, the president* and House Republicans – and Senate Republicans – have done nothing! They benefited directly from Russia’s support of the campaign of Donald Trump and his presence in the Oval Office. They will only care if the interference were to be on behalf of Democrats and then they would be Very Outraged. Maybe in the wake of the recent indictments, some of the Democratic Party’s election security measures will be adopted. If not, they can be introduced in January 2019 when we regain the majority and be in place for the 2020 election.

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