March 01, 2018

On Senate Floor, Gillibrand Calls On Colleagues To Finally Take Action To Solve The Gun Violence Crisis In America

Gillibrand: America’s Gun Violence Problem Isn’t Going To Go Away Unless Congress Musters Up The Courage To Address It Head-On

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor today to demand that Congress take action and pass meaningful gun reform laws to help end gun violence in America. With Congress failing to take action to address gun violence in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gillibrand called on her colleagues to immediately vote to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and bump stocks, pass a universal background check system, close the gun show loophole, pass her legislation to make federal gun trafficking a crime, and allow the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared:

Mr. President, I rise to speak about the mass-murder in Florida last month.

And I rise to ask a simple question that millions of Americans, in every part of this country, are asking at their kitchen tables:

Is Congress finally going to do anything meaningful about gun violence?

When will enough be enough?

What will it take for this body to move beyond the same talking points that we always hear after every mass shooting and actually do something to prevent more deaths?

Mr. President, will Congress finally see what the vast majority of Americans see – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – that America’s gun violence problem isn’t going to go away, unless Congress musters up the courage to address it head-on?

Or, will Congress continue to give the lip service of thoughts and prayers, and then do nothing?

We have to act – because once again, there was a massacre on American soil.

Once again, it was inside a school.

Once again, American children were gunned down.

We keep living through a nightmare of gun violence that repeats itself in schools, movie theaters, churches, nightclubs, concerts – and every single day on the streets of cities across our country.

Sandy Hook. Aurora. Charleston. San Bernardino. Orlando. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs.                             And most recently, Parkland, Florida.

Mr. President, we can help stop this. We have the power to help stop it.

The question is whether this Congress has the political will to do it.

Whether this institution will finally put families first, and stand up to the gun manufacturers and the NRA.

I urge every member of Congress to reflect on why they first ran for office.

We are here as public servants, to serve the people who sent us here – not to serve the gun industry’s profits.      

Not to serve the organizations and companies and lobbyists that demand political retribution when we try to do the morally right thing. 

Does Congress have that will? Does Congress have that courage?

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know.

But we can put it to the test.

There’s been a lot of talk – more than normal, even – about our need to act in this chamber.

So I’ll say this to my colleagues: Let’s make this time different.

Let’s listen to the kids from Stoneman Douglas High School. Let’s seize this moment. Let’s take action.

I implore my colleagues to listen to what the country is saying about gun violence – listen to the families – listen to the survivors from Parkland – and tune out all the other noise.

I did it. It’s possible.

10 years ago, I had an A-rating from the NRA, just like many of you.

But then I met with the mother of Nyasia Pryear-Yard. And I met Nyasia’s high school classmates.

Nyasia was a high school honor student from Brooklyn.

She was out dancing with her friends, and someone fired a gun, and the stray bullet hit her and killed her.

And now, I have an F-rating from the NRA – and I don’t understand how, after meeting grieving families whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence…any public servant, any elected official, wouldn’t vow to take every sensible step you can to ensure that someone else’s child isn’t next.

That’s what we rightfully do after a terrorist attack.

We need to have the same sense of urgency now.

Plain and simple, it is a lie to say that we have to choose between protecting law-abiding gun owners’ rights, and protecting our children from being murdered by assault rifles.

It is a false choice to say that we can’t end gun violence without violating people’s constitutional rights.

Mr. President, it is time for members of Congress to take a stand for what is right for America – and not what is right for the NRA.

And I commend one of our colleagues in the House – a Republican from Florida, an Army veteran – who is seeing this crisis differently now too.

He wrote, quote, “I know that my community, our schools, and public gathering places, are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands.

“I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people, being used to kill children I swore to defend.”                                                                                                     

That is what leadership looks like.

I implore my colleagues in the Senate to see our gun violence problem differently, too – to see it for what it is – a matter of national security, public health, and public safety that will never go away unless Congress takes action.

So once and for all, let’s pass laws that are actually meaningful – not just something simple so we can say we did something and then move on.

And I strongly agree with my colleagues that we need to improve the mental health system.

But it’s not enough to just stop there.

We have to address the weapons of war on our streets.

We have to address the fact that it’s too easy for people to get a gun who should never have one.

Let’s vote to ban semi-automatic assault rifles.

Congress has already banned fully automatic weapons.

Congress has already recognized that some weapons have no place in the civilian world.

And a weapon that was designed for military use, that can fire up to 100 rounds in one minute, or hundreds of rounds if you add a bump stock – a weapon that can completely outgun a police officer…has no place in the civilian world.

So will my colleagues vote with me to ban semi-automatic assault rifles?

And then let’s vote to ban high-capacity magazines.

They are made for war – not our schools. Not our cities.

High-capacity magazines let killers fire dozens of rounds without having to frequently stop and reload.

They are designed to let someone fire bullets at as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.

So let’s vote to ban high-capacity magazines.

And then let’s vote to pass universal background checks.

Too many people who should not be getting their hands on these weapons, are easily able to get them.

There are too many huge loopholes in the law.

They allow people to buy semi-automatic assault rifles online, where there are no background checks…and they allow people to buy semi-automatic assault rifles at gun shows, where there are no background checks.

It simply doesn’t make any sense that every person who buys a firearm doesn’t go through the background check system.

And 97 percent of Americans agree.

I can’t think of any other issue where there is such near-universal agreement across the public.

So let’s do what our constituents are demanding from us – not what the NRA is demanding from us – and vote to pass universal background checks.

And when we do it, let’s make sure that the effort is actually sincere.

If we are only voting on universal background checks when it’s tied to the issue of concealed carry reciprocity, then that’s not a sincere attempt to fix our broken background check system.

If Congress is saying that we’ll only pass universal background checks, if we also pass a new law that says a stranger from one state has to be allowed into my state or your state when he has a gun hidden under his jacket…

Then that’s an insult to the 97 percent of Americans who just want Congress to pass universal background checks now.

And then let’s finally vote to overturn the outrageous law that has banned the Centers for Disease Control from even studying the issue of gun deaths.

The CDC can study any other cause of death – heart disease, cancer, car crashes, plane crashes – unless it involves a gun.

Don’t you think it’s strange that as we debate this issue, the two things related to gun violence that Congress has actually banned in recent years…are research on gun violence, and a ban on the ATF from using computers to keep records?

So let’s vote to allow the CDC to conduct research on gun violence, so we can finally have the information and the data we need to fight gun violence as effectively as possible.

And let’s also pass a law to finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Over and over again, our law enforcement officers keep finding illegally obtained guns being used in crimes.

Numerous NYPD officers have been killed by guns that were illegally obtained by criminals.

But there is no federal law to stop someone from loading his truck with guns in Georgia, driving up I-95, and selling them in a parking lot in the Bronx.

I have a bill that would make this illegal.

It’s called the Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act – and it is bipartisan, because both parties agree that gun trafficking is a source of gun violence in our cities.

The bill is named after Nyasia, who I spoke about earlier, and another teenage girl, from Chicago, who was also killed by a stray bullet.

Both guns were trafficked.

So let’s pass this bill and finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Mr. President, if we’re not trying to solve this problem now, then we are failing as elected officials.

Congress must solve America’s gun violence crisis now.

It is urgent, and our country is demanding it.

Americans deserve more from Congress than just banning bump stocks and Fix NICS, which, while I strongly support both of them, will not do enough on their own.

So let’s not fail our country again.

Mr. President, I would like to ask my colleagues to immediately vote to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and bump stocks, to pass a universal background check system and close its loopholes, to allow the CDC to research gun violence as a cause of death, to close the gun show loophole, and to finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.

I yield the floor.