[Congressional Record Volume 159, Number 23 (Wednesday, February 13, 2013)]
[Pages H481-H488]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                        GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Joyce). Under the Speaker's announced 
policy of January 3, 2013, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Speier) 
is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we're going to spend the 
hour talking about gun violence prevention, and in particular, how the 
National Rifle Association has systematically unwound laws that have 
already been on the books.
  Last night, the President referenced the fact that since the horrific 
deaths at Sandy Hook there have been a thousand more people that have 
died due to gun violence. It is not good enough to wear a green ribbon 
in support of the Sandy Hook families and think you have done enough.
  Times have changed, and the polling that's been done is overwhelming 
in support of sensible gun violence prevention laws. Let's be clear at 
the outset--the Heller decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has made it 
very clear: Every American has a right to own a gun for recreational 
purposes or to have a gun in their home for purposes of safety, and 
that is not going to change. We embrace that decision, we support it. 
But we also support safe laws around the use of guns.

[[Page H482]]

  So let us begin by looking at this, a Quinnipiac survey done very 
recently. Ninety-two percent support background checks for all gun 
purchases, including 91 percent of gun-owning households; 89 percent 
support closing the gun show loophole by requiring background checks 
for all gun purchases; 69 percent support banning the sale of semi-
automatic, military-style assault weapons; 68 percent support banning 
the sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines; and 81 percent favor 
prohibiting high-risk individuals from having guns, including those 
convicted of serious crime as juveniles or convicted of violating 
domestic violence restraining orders.
  So Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, polled NRA members and non-
NRA members who were gun owners, and what did they find out there? 
There they found out that 85 percent of gun owners and 87 percent of 
NRA members believe Second Amendment rights and gun safety laws can 
coexist. That's what we're talking about. Eighty-seven percent of gun 
owners and 74 percent of NRA members support requiring background 
checks of anyone buying a gun. We're talking about that right now. But 
in a couple of minutes, I'm going to show you how that has changed 
among the leadership in the NRA.
  Fifty-three percent of gun owners and 57 percent of the NRA members 
mistakenly believe that everyone has to pass a background check. Eighty 
percent of gun owners, 79 percent of NRA members, support requiring 
background checks of gun retailer employees.
  Eighty percent of gun owners and 71 percent of NRA members support 
barring people on the terror watch list from buying guns. It's a 
surprise to most people that they can in fact buy guns.
  All right. Let's move on. Let's talk about the CEO of the National 
Rifle Association.

                              {time}  1400

  What did he say in 1999? In 1999, after the Columbine shootings, when 
so many children lost their lives at Columbine High School, he said:

       We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant 
     criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show, 
     no loopholes anywhere for anyone.

  That's what he said.
  What did he say after 20 children and six adults lost their lives in 
Newtown at Sandy Hook? In 2013, he says, at a Senate hearing, when 
Senator Leahy asked:

       You do not support background checks in all instances at 
     gun shows?

  Mr. LaPierre said:

       We do not because the fact is the law right now is a 
     failure the way it's working. None of it makes any sense in 
     the real world.

  Well, we are living in the real world, and the real world would 
suggest to everyone that a commonsense law is to have a universal 
background check for everyone.
  Let's look at the next time we saw a flip-flop by Mr. Wayne LaPierre. 
Again, the point here being that the NRA leadership does not reflect 
the NRA membership.
  In 1999, after Columbine, he says:

       We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero tolerance, totally 
     safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, 

  On ``Meet the Press'' just a few weeks ago, Mr. LaPierre said:

       If it's crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to 
     protect our children, then call me crazy. I think the 
     American people think it's crazy not to do it. It's the one 
     thing that would keep people safe.

  The point here, colleagues, is that the public, NRA members and gun-
owning families in this country believe in commonsense reforms, and we 
owe it to them. We owe it to them to vote on these commonsense bills 
that will not restrict anyone's ability to own a gun for self-
protection or to own a gun for recreation, but will take these assault 
weapons that are military weapons that are invented for one reason and 
one reason only, and that is to tear the hell out of anything they come 
in contact with.
  As one law enforcement officer said very recently:

       The energy in an assault weapon bullet will tear open a 
     brick wall.

  You don't need that to go hunting, and you don't need that to protect 
yourself in your home.
  I yield to the gentlewoman from New York, Carolyn Maloney.
  Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. I'd like to yield to my 
inspiration in so many ways--we share the same name--Carolyn McCarthy. 
And on this issue, from New York, she is our spokesperson.
  Mrs. McCARTHY of New York. I want to thank my colleagues for having 
this hour to talk about, really, the real issues and certainly 
hopefully break up some of the myths that are out there on what we're 
hearing, not only in the papers but certainly from some NRA members.
  I've been battling this, and many of us have been battling this issue 
for many, many years. I think that what happened just about 2 months 
ago today, that Newtown shooting happened. And that went through 
everybody's heart to think in this day and age that we could have a 
shooting that totally rips apart 20 children is unacceptable to the 
American people--unacceptable to the American people.
  Since that, being that we're trying to give as much information as 
possible to the American people what's happened since that day, over 
2,000 people have been killed. Two thousand Americans have been 
murdered in episodes of gun violence.
  There are a number of us here, Members of Congress, that have gone 
through this kind of violence, either with a loved one, our colleague 
from California, Jackie Speier, we know what this can mean to a family. 
Last night, we had 25, 30, unfortunately, victims. And yet here we are 
debating, hoping, even after what the President said, give us a vote. 
Give us a vote. This isn't about us. This is about what our job is. We 
can have people disagree, and I know it's a lot of tough votes for some 
Democrats and certainly some Republicans. I believe that when we came 
here and got elected and we swore to uphold the Constitution, we knew 
we'd be facing tough votes. Who said this was going to be an easy job? 
It's never been an easy job. But it is a job that the majority of us 
here want to do.
  When the President spoke last night, and listening to the aftermath 
late last night on what some of the pundits were saying about what the 
President was actually trying to do, we heard the NRA say that the 
reason they're against some of the things that we want to do as far as 
Members of Congress and our task force that we want to really take 
everybody's gun away. Do you know that program that we were talking 
about, the buy-back? What they were saying was it's not really just a 
buy-back. It's confiscating every single one of the guns. Well, I don't 
think that would hold up constitutionally. And I think that we have put 
together, in my opinion, a reasonable, very practical way of reducing 
gun violence in this country.
  I also heard last night that assault weapons, long guns, and it only 
adds up to 8 percent of the people that are killed every year--8 
percent. Can we stop putting numbers on everything and remember the 
faces that were here? Can we remember the people and the families that 
have lost their loved ones? They are not a number.
  Then they had another chart out that talked about handguns. Well, let 
me tell you something about handguns that affects almost everybody in 
our communities. Legislation that we are putting forward, the 
background checks, preventing straw purchasers, which basically is 
someone else is buying a gun for someone that is legally barred from 
buying a gun, think about how many handguns would not be sold to 
criminals. Think about how many lives will be saved.
  But, also, let's think about those who have survived gun violence. 
But many of them, if you think about a lot of the young people in 
Aurora that had no health care insurance--and I can talk about my own 
son who was 26 when he was shot with five others, and, unfortunately, 
his father was murdered that day. I can tell you his medical bills to 
this day--to this day--they have cost this country millions of dollars.
  Now I will say to you that we were very, very lucky; and I have been 
very, very blessed that he survived. But even back then, the doctors 
said that we would see changes in him as he got older because of the 
brain injury. And Kevin--God, I can't tell you how proud I was of my 
son. Two years of intensive therapy and they said he would never walk. 
He learned how to walk. Yes, he

[[Page H483]]

is still partially paralyzed, but he learned how to walk.

                              {time}  1410

  They said he would never talk. And when I talk about those days and 
somebody asks how is Kevin doing, I say, ``Well, you know, he just 
  I spent my life as a nurse before I came here. And a lot of times 
when we think of patients who have had strokes and we're teaching them 
how to speak again, when we say they were talking, trying to get the 
words out is so hard. Every word becomes so difficult, but he had the 
power to do that.
  Our friend Gabby Giffords, who was here last night, to watch, in my 
opinion, her long struggle reminded me so much of what Kevin had to go 
through. I will say that Kevin went back to work, and he worked for 
many years. Unfortunately, he has reached the point now where he can't 
work, and he had to go on to Social Security disability.
  That has hurt his pride so much because of the work that he has done. 
All they want to be is looked upon and seen as just a regular person. 
There are thousands and thousands and thousands of Kevin McCarthys 
across this country. We are trying to prevent those kinds of injuries.
  Background checks, why should anybody be afraid of a background 
check? Why? Why should anybody--again, as was brought up in an earlier 
poster--when you go to a gun show--I remember when we closed the gun 
show loopholes in New York. Gosh, we had the NRA all over us basically 
saying it's going to ruin the business. I say to you, go to New York 
and see the gun shows that are held on weekends. There's a big 
difference, though. Nobody can go into that gun show without buying a 
gun from a licensed Federal dealer.
  By the way, the Federal licensed dealers, the gun shop owners in this 
country, they want everybody to go through a background check because 
you do have less than 2 percent of gun stores that are selling these 
illegal guns or guns disappear. It's ruining their reputations. These 
are honest businessowners. We're actually protecting them.
  There is so much that we can go on about. When it was talked about 
the people that are on the terrorist list, do people know that they can 
actually buy a gun without a problem? God forbid we should put them on 
background check. I mean, they're on the terrorist list, but they can 
go and buy a gun.
  I want to thank my colleagues, and I want to give them an opportunity 
to speak because I know we all care passionately about this. And I 
certainly will sit here and listen to my colleagues. If we have time, 
hopefully, we can all speak again.
  It's exactly two months since the shooting in Newtown and since then 
up to 2,000 Americans have been murdered in episodes of gun violence in 
our country.
  I know that ours is a country that believes in safety and in 
protecting innocent people.
  That's why we've instituted some of the most thorough auto safety 
laws in the world, and why we regulate access to medicine, and why we 
inspect food.
  It's also why we should be looking at the most dangerous consumer 
products in the world and seeing how we can make their use safer for 
  When it comes to reducing gun violence, the president has already 
said everything he could possibly say.
  There can't be any more excuses--the ball is in our court here in 
  The president was right in his State of the Union Address that gun 
violence victims ``Deserve a Vote.''
  There's no shortage of options--I'm the sponsor of a bill to ban 
assault weapons, a bill to ban high-capacity magazines, a bill for 
universal background checks and a bill to limit online ammunition 
  Another bipartisan bill by my colleagues cracks down on illegal gun 
  Here in the House of Representatives, too many members of the 
Majority have been completely silent on these bills. They haven't even 
held a simple hearing to discuss the topic, and that's shameful.
  I would ask my friends on the other side of the aisle--what are you 
afraid of?
  I would tell them--you don't have to be afraid.
  Poll after poll after poll since Newtown--national polls--show that 
the majority of Americans want their lawmakers to take action to reduce 
gun violence.
  The majority of Americans support banning assault weapons. The 
majority of Americans support banning high-capacity magazines. And over 
90 percent of Americans support universal background checks.
  Even three-quarters of all NRA members support universal background 
  So I would tell my friends across the aisle--I know this is a tough 
issue, but you were elected to make tough decisions.
  Tell us where you stand on these measures to reduce gun violence--the 
American people deserve to know where you stand.
  And then, have the courage to hold votes on the measures that are out 
  This is a democracy--it's our job to represent the American people.
  If we don't hold votes on this issue that the American people are 
screaming out about every single day since that awful shooting in 
Connecticut, then this body will have failed in its duties and in its 
  I will say to my friends across the aisle--let the people speak, and 
let their voices be heard.
  Over 30 Americans are being killed by gun violence every single day 
and it would be shameful to turn a blind eye to that fact.
  Thank you for doing this.
  Ms. SPEIER. Thank you to the gentlelady from New York for her always 
powerful comments.
  Now we're joined by the gentlewoman from New York, Carolyn Maloney, 
who has just introduced a bill co-authored by Democrats and Republicans 
that deals with the trafficking of guns.
  Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York. Thank you so much to Jackie 
Speier for organizing this. She has told me she's going to continue 
working with her colleagues in Congress to raise this issue, to focus 
on it. She's going to try to get us here at least once a week to keep 
the focus on this priority of the American people and our President.
  We see here some important information. I think what we should do 
every week, Jackie, is print the names of the innocent children, men, 
and women who are murdered every day in our great country because of 
senseless gun violence like my dear friend's husband and her son who 
was critically wounded. She told me how hard it was for her to tell her 
son that he had lost his father. And I want to publicly thank Carolyn 
for making this a priority in her time in Congress and giving so 
selflessly of her time to help us pass meaningful gun legislation.
  I'm a cosponsor of all my colleagues' bills. I think they all are 
common sense and important and should pass. But I want to focus on one 
that I think every NRA member should be for, and that is to take the 
guns out of the hands of traffickers, people who are selling guns to 
criminals, to cartels that are used only to kill, whether it's gangs or 
robberies or whatever they use them for. Why can't we do that? Why 
can't we make that a felony and put teeth behind the punishment?
  When we were having hearings on the Fast and Furious program in the 
Government Reform and Oversight Committee, law enforcement came and 
testified. They said: Help us. Trafficking and guns is not even a 
felony. It's not even a crime. You can be a drug kingpin selling guns 
all over the place, and you won't be convicted because it's not a 
  No law-abiding person is a kingpin and trafficking guns. One thing 
that's good about this bill and why we have so much support on the 
other side of the aisle is that it doesn't in any way infringe on 
Second Amendment rights. Law-abiding Americans, if they want a gun for 
recreation or shooting practice or defense, fine. But these are guns 
that are being sold to criminals, to thugs, who then go out and kill 
more people.
  Mr. Speaker, yesterday in a Federal courtroom in Las Cruces, New 
Mexico, two people were convicted of being part of a larger conspiracy 
to smuggle guns to some really bad people, criminals. They had smuggled 
guns to folks who worked as ``muscle'' for a vicious Mexican drug 
cartel. In fact, one of the defendants had purchased three 
semiautomatic weapons that showed up a month later at the scene of a 
triple homicide. Another of the guns he bought surfaced at a Juarez 
drug seizure. These two men were found guilty, but they didn't get much 
of a sentence because it's not a crime.
  The sad fact is that about all the prosecutors could reasonably hope 
for in the case--under Federal law, gun traffickers can expect to do 
about as much time as people who illegally traffic in livestock. 
Illegally sell an assault weapon to a known killer or drug

[[Page H484]]

kingpin or sell a chicken without a permit, and you can expect to do 
about the same amount of time for each. This is ridiculous.
  Mr. Speaker, there is something dreadfully wrong with this picture. 
Right now people known as straw purchasers can buy multiple guns and 
immediately resell them to cartels or killers and know that if they are 
caught that they will not be charged with anything but paperwork 
violations. Law enforcement told us at the committee that they don't 
even bother to arrest and try to prosecute straw purchasers because 
there's no penalty. Well, our bill changes that and can give up to 20 
years in prison for being a straw purchaser.
  Tragically, this is what happened in my own State of New York last 
Christmas Eve just 10 days after the massacre at the Sandy Hook 
children's school. Last December in Webster, New York, a convicted 
felon set fire to a house and then set himself up as a sniper to shoot 
down law enforcement when they came to protect him. He shot and killed 
two firefighters and seriously injured two others before taking his own 
  This is a heart-wrenching tragedy, and it is one that could never 
have happened but for the fact that the gunman's neighbor had acted as 
a straw purchaser for him. Authorities say she purchased a 12-gauge 
shotgun and a Bushmaster rifle for the man who, as a convicted felon, 
could not have purchased a gun in his own name. For knowingly acting as 
a straw purchaser for a felon, the neighbor has been charged with the 
only law that really applies: State and Federal paperwork violations.

                              {time}  1420

  I believe she would not have been buying these weapons for him if she 
knew she could have faced 20 years in prison. That's what prosecutors 
all too often have to rely on--a toothless Federal law that prohibits 
``engaging in the business of selling guns without a Federal license.'' 
Little wonder then that, according to the ATF, straw purchasers is the 
most common channel of illegal gun trafficking in America.
  Believe me, if guns made us safer, we'd be the safest country on 
Earth. We are the most armed country on Earth, and we know from 
statistics that, if you own a gun, the degree of probability of being 
hurt or injured or killed by a gun is 8 to 15 percent higher than it is 
for other individuals. It is no surprise then that U.S. Attorneys are 
forced to decline to prosecute 25 percent of gun trafficking cases. 
This is an outrage. This is a crime. This is causing the loss of lives. 
The investigation can take longer than the sentence a trafficker might 
receive. In the wake of recent tragedies, the voice of the American 
people has been clear on this issue: They want something done, and they 
want it done now. They want us to do something to address this problem. 
They want something done that shows some bipartisan cooperation.
  As our President said, we came here to do a job. Let's have a vote. 
Let's put this bill out on the floor of Congress, and let's have a 
vote. If some of my colleagues would like to vote against making 
trafficking in guns a felony, then let them do it. If some of my 
colleagues would like to vote against having meaningful penalties for 
trafficking and a straw purchaser's buying guns to be given to 
criminals, then let them do it, but let's have a vote. That's a 
  I introduced a bill in the last Congress and have reintroduced it in 
this Congress, H.R. 452. I hope that the listening public will urge 
their Members of Congress to cosponsor this bill and help us pass it 
for the American people. It is called the Gun Trafficking Prevention 
Act. It is a bipartisan bill, cosponsored by my friends and colleagues 
on the other side of the aisle: Mr. Rigell of Virginia, who happens to 
be an NRA member, said this doesn't infringe on any gun owner's rights. 
He owns guns, but he just wants to go after the kingpins and the 
murderers and the illegal traffickers; and Mr. Meehan of Pennsylvania, 
who is a former prosecutor and knows firsthand why law enforcement 
needs these tools.
  This bill will help keep guns out of the hands of felons and domestic 
abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, who cannot and should not be 
able to legally buy guns on their own. This bill prohibits the purchase 
or transfer of a firearm if the intent is to deliver the firearm to 
someone else who is prohibited by Federal law or State law from 
possessing a firearm. Persons who commit this offense are subject to up 
to 20 years of imprisonment. For the first time, our bill makes 
firearms trafficking a Federal crime--something law enforcement 
officials have been asking for in hearings, in letters. They have been 
asking for this for years.
  The bill also establishes significant penalties for straw purchasers 
who buy firearms on behalf of someone else. Buy a firearm for a 
convicted felon and you could look at 20 years in prison. These 
increased penalties will provide law enforcement officials with the 
critical tools that they've been asking for, tools that Bobby Scott 
knows from his judiciary work are critically needed. The increased 
penalties can be used to encourage straw purchasers to cooperate with 
prosecutors in order to make it possible to go on up the food chain--
after the cartels and the kingpins who now have little to fear.
  Let me be absolutely clear that this bill has no impact whatsoever on 
the Second Amendment, on legal gun ownership or purchases.
  As the President pointed out in his speech last night, this bill will 
not put an end to all gun violence. No bill can do that. No bill can 
prevent any particular act of violence, but we can stop some. We can do 
something and we can do this, and law enforcement is begging for the 
passage of this bill. We can begin the healing. We can restore some 
trust. We can stop putting guns in the hands of criminals. We can do it 
in a bipartisan way, and we can do it together.
  Again, I thank my good friend and wonderful colleague, Jackie Speier 
from the great State of California, for organizing this. I will be with 
you at all of your future events.
  Ms. SPEIER. I thank the gentlelady from New York for making it clear 
that we are talking about safe and sane, commonsense laws on the books, 
and I am honored to be a cosponsor of her bill.
  I want to just take a minute and go through a timeline of what has 
happened under the NRA's leadership in terms of the unraveling of laws 
that have been on the books but, because of the NRA's leadership, they 
have been unraveled. Let's start with the very first one.
  Between 1980 and 1987, the number of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 
agents was slashed by 21 percent, from 1,500 to 1,180, and the number 
of inspectors dropped from 655 to 626. What was happening during that 
period of time? During that period of time, there were more and more 
dealers. So why would the NRA be so interested in reducing the staffing 
of the ATF? In 1986, the Firearm Owners' Protection Act was passed--
again, sponsored by the NRA. It set a high burden of proof to prosecute 
violations of Federal gun laws. It limited ATF inspections to once a 
year, and it weakened the penalty. It allowed unlicensed individuals to 
sell their firearms as a hobby, avoiding meaningful regulations, thus 
leading to an increase in gun shows.
  What does that mean when you have to establish a standard that is so 
high that you end up not revoking any firearm dealer's license? Well, 
willfully--not knowingly but willfully--violating gun safety laws is 
the standard that is now on the books. It's an extraordinarily high 
standard, and the loopholes that were created allowed for dealers to 
hand off their businesses, even when they had these horrendous 
violations, to relatives or to convert their inventory of guns into a 
``personal collection,'' which they then could sell because it was now 
a hobby, without doing background checks. Let me give you one example.
  An example is Sandy Abrams. He was a member of the NRA board of 
directors. He was cited with over 900 violations of Federal firearm 
laws at his shop, Valley Gun, and 483 crime guns were traced to his 
shop. This is an NRA board member who violated the laws 900 times, and 
483 crime guns were traced to his shop. What did the NRA do? The NRA, 
in a subsequent bill, banned the tracing of crime guns. What happened 
to him? The only power that ATF had was to revoke his license. So what 
did they do? No criminal charges were ever brought. Abrams transferred 
hundreds of his firearms to his personal

[[Page H485]]

collection, despite the revocation of his license, and faced charges of 
illegally selling those guns from his personal collection. As I 
mentioned earlier, in 1986, the Firearm Owners' Protection Act limited 
these inspections and weakened penalties.
  We then moved on to the Dickey amendment in 1996. What did the Dickey 
amendment do? The Dickey amendment held that the CDC could no longer 
conduct public health research. Now, why would the NRA be so concerned 
about research going on? Because when you do research, you can link it, 
and it can create the opportunity for public policy decisions that are, 
in fact, thoughtful.
  Then came the famous Tiahrt amendments in 2004 that placed 
restrictions on law enforcement, limited access to crime gun tracing 
data and required approval--background checks--of 24 hours only. That 
amendment said that if you're going to do a background check, you can 
only have that document in place for 24 hours, and then it has to be 
destroyed. So, to the point made by our colleague from New York about 
what are called ``straw purchasers,'' how would you even know there was 
a straw purchaser if you had to destroy that record in 24 hours?
  Then in 2004 came the assault weapons ban, which was sponsored by 
Senator Dianne Feinstein. The chair then of the Judiciary Committee, 
our good Vice President, was also the shepherd of that bill.

                              {time}  1430

  In 2005, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, this was heralded 
by the NRA as being their biggest get ever because that particular bill 
became law, and it protects gun manufacturers from civil liability 
suits--the only industry in this country that is not subject to civil 
liability suits for dangerous equipment and the like. The Sandy Hook 
families that are looking at trying to bring actions right now are 
stymied because this law is in place. There's no protection for auto 
manufacturers if they have unsafe products, but we've given carte 
blanche protection to gun manufacturers.
  And in 2005, the U.S. PATRIOT Act, what did we do there? Well, then 
the NRA decided that, you know what, that ATF Director shouldn't just 
be appointed; it should be confirmed by the Senate. So in the PATRIOT 
Act, they got an amendment that provides that the ATF Director must be 
confirmed by the Senate. And guess what happens? There hasn't been an 
ATF Director confirmed in 7 years because of the control that they 
  And then in 2005, ironically, George W. Bush does something his 
father didn't even do. His father, George H.W. Bush, by executive 
order, banned the importation of guns in this country, particularly the 
assault weapons. When President Clinton came into power, he, by 
executive order, expanded that importation ban to include high-capacity 
magazines. George W. Bush comes in as President, and he lifts the ban 
on the importation of assault weapons.
  And between 2009 and 2012, we've had 99 gun safety laws rolled back 
at the State level. That's what the NRA is doing.
  I now yield to my colleague from Rhode Island for his comments.
  Mr. CICILLINE. I thank the gentlelady from California for yielding, 
and also for organizing this conversation about the dangers of gun 
violence and our responsibility to reduce gun violence in communities 
all across this country.
  I want to also acknowledge the leadership of the gentlelady from New 
York, Carolyn McCarthy, who long before I arrived here was an 
inspiration to me and so many others across the country who have been 
fighting for responsible gun safety legislation.
  Just to give a context to the problem we are confronting, the U.S. 
gun murder rate is about 20 times the average of other developed 
nations. What that means is someone in this country is about 20 times 
as likely to be killed by a gun as someone in another developed 
country. As some have already said, since the horrible, horrible 
killings, the murders of Newtown, 1,772 people have been killed by guns 
since that tragedy.
  According to the CDC, there are 11,078 firearm homicides that 
accounted for 68 percent of all homicides in 2010. These are just some 
numbers that I think give us an understanding of the seriousness of the 
problem that we face with gun violence in this country. It's an 
  I salute Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Mayor Menino and Mayor 
Bloomberg, who began that. I was a founding member. I salute the Brady 
Campaign for their work, but there are a couple of facts that are 
  Number one, the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to 
possess firearms, and the vast majority of gun owners are responsible 
and they possess firearms for their self-defense and their own 
protection. That's a fact.
  Two, there are certain categories of individuals that we all agree 
ought not have access to firearms--dangerous criminals, the seriously 
mentally ill, and children.
  So if we agree on those two facts--guns are permitted by the 
Constitution to be possessed by individuals, three categories of 
individuals at least ought not have access to those firearms--then we 
have a responsibility to design a system and pass laws that ensure that 
those three categories of individuals, in fact, don't have access to 
firearms; and we have the ability to do that by closing the gaping 
loopholes from private sales and from the fire sale that the gentlelady 
from California just referenced where, when your license to sell guns, 
your Federal license is revoked, that you're rewarded by having your 
entire inventory turned into a personal collection, and then you can 
sell it free from the constraints of background checks.
  We can fix the background check system, be sure that States are 
putting accurate information into the system. We can ban assault 
weapons, which are weapons of war which don't belong in the 
neighborhoods of our cities and towns, and high-capacity ammunition 
whose only purpose is to kill a great number of people in a very short 
period of time. We have these very reasonable, commonsense solutions 
which are available.
  Last night at the President's State of the Union, we had 30 victims 
who suffered the grievous impact of gun violence, who put a face on the 
devastation, the scourge of gun violence in this country. We owe it to 
them, we owe it to families all across this country to move on this 
legislation, to hold a vote up or down so we can take what most 
Americans support, responsible gun safety legislation to reduce gun 
violence in our country.
  When the gentlelady was just going through the examples of what the 
NRA has been successful in doing, let's not forget, the NRA doesn't 
have a vote in this Chamber, so every single one of those actions 
happened because individuals in Congress voted for them, and they 
should be accountable for that. And we can fix it by taking votes today 
to enhance public safety, to impose reasonable gun safety measures that 
will protect children and families all across this country and continue 
to honor the right of individuals to possess a firearm as guaranteed in 
the Second Amendment.
  I thank the gentlelady for her leadership and for yielding. This is 
an important issue.
  I'll end with The New York Times headline that said, ``Do we have the 
courage to stop this?'' talking about the carnage in Newtown and the 
courage that family members have displayed who have been victims of gun 
violence. If we can match that courage, Members of this House can match 
just 10 percent of the courage that they've demonstrated in sharing 
their stories, then we'll do the right thing and pass responsible gun 
safety legislation.
  Ms. SPEIER. I thank you for your extraordinarily sound comments on 
this issue. As you were talking about courage, I remember recently 
having an opportunity to listen to a family from Newtown who lost a 
child, who said to me and to others:

       You're just a bunch of talking heads. Can't you two groups 
     get together and do what's right?

  With that, let me yield to the Member of Congress who represents that 
extraordinary community and who has done so much to help them heal from 
what has been a devastating impact on not just everyone in the country 
but particularly those families in Newtown, Ms. Esty.
  Ms. ESTY. I would like to thank the gentlelady from California for 
organizing this Special Order hour, and I

[[Page H486]]

want to thank you for your longtime leadership on the gun violence 
prevention issue; and to our friend and colleague Congresswoman 
McCarthy, for your tireless effort, sadly over decades now, to ensure 
that this Congress takes action to keep our communities safer.
  Last night in this Chamber, people affected by gun violence, 
including a number of families and officials and first responders from 
Newtown, were here in this Chamber. I have the honor of representing 
this small, brave town that now finds itself at the center of this 
national debate. And, folks, they are the face. They are paying the 
price of our political inaction.
  Among the people here last night was a courageous educator by the 
name of Natalie Hammond. Natalie was the lead teacher at the Sandy Hook 
school that day, and she was in the hall trying to stop that madman, 
and her colleagues on either side were killed and she was seriously 
injured. She got out of physical therapy and came out publicly for the 
first time to be here last night to put a human face on the cost of 
  These people, as the gentlelady from California suggested, as The New 
York Times and others have suggested, are so courageous. And they have 
one question for us: What are we going to do? What is this country 
going to do to address this epidemic?
  The President spoke eloquently, yet very directly, last night about 
how we must do better as a country. As he said, the families of Newtown 
deserve a vote.

                              {time}  1440

  He is right. Commonsense measures that respect Second Amendment 
rights, like universal criminal background checks, a reinstatement of 
the assault weapons ban, and restrictions on high-capacity magazines 
should, at the very least, be voted on in this Chamber and in the 
  The voices of the American people should be heard in this Congress. 
It's up to us. It's up to us, as elected leaders, to see that these 
families, that every family touched by gun violence has a vote.
  Lynn and Chris McDonnell, the parents of Grace McDonnell, were here 
in the Chambers last night, as witness to their daughter, who loved 
pink, who did a beautiful painting, which they gave to the President of 
the United States.
  The McDonnells asked me this morning, they said, you know, Elizabeth, 
what more can we do to ensure that Congress acts? And I was astounded 
by the question. To think that this grieving family, what more could 
they do? It's, what more must we do?
  They are doing everything they can to make sure that every Member of 
Congress understands not only their loss--their loss is America's loss, 
because every child that was murdered, every life lost on the city 
streets of our country is a loss that ripples throughout families and 
communities, lives. We will never know what these people could have 
done, could have contributed to our society, and it is an enormous hole 
in the fabric of our country.
  The price of inaction is too high. The price of inaction is being 
paid every day by grieving parents like Lynn and Chris McDonnell.
  So I want to thank, again, the gentlelady from California for all 
you're doing to ensure that we do the right thing here today, that we 
continue the discussion of this critical issue, that we do not lose our 
will to take action, and that we do bring about real change to save 
lives in our communities across this country.
  The parents, the families, the children of Newtown deserve no less 
than our best efforts. We must act.
  Thank you very much.
  Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, can I inquire as to how much time we have 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman has 13 minutes remaining.
  Ms. SPEIER. It's now my pleasure to yield time to my good, good, good 
friend and colleague from California, Barbara Lee, who has been an 
outspoken advocate for gun violence prevention for decades.
  Ms. LEE of California. Thank you very much.
  First of all, let me thank you, Congresswoman Speier, for bringing us 
all together today to speak out on the important issue of addressing 
gun violence, not next month, not next year, not next Congress, but 
right now. And I have to just thank you so much for your tremendous 
  Yourself and Congresswoman McCarthy, both of you have so eloquently 
laid out why we need gun violence safety measures, both with your 
intellect and with your heart. Both of you have shared your very 
painful experiences, really, basically, so that others can live rather 
than die from gunshots. So thank you so much for staying the course.
  I can think of no more important subject than what we're talking 
about today because this gun violence has been destroying communities, 
taking lives, and injuring too many people for much too long across 
  As President Obama invoked in his State of the Union speech last 
night, the families grieving from losing loved ones to gun violence 
deserve a vote. In fact, though, we're saying they deserve more than a 
vote. They deserve concrete steps to reduce gun violence, and we can 
take those steps right here in Congress.

  We cannot accept one more innocent life being lost to gun violence, 
not one in Newtown, not one in Chicago or Cleveland, not one in my 
district in Oakland, California, not one in any town, any city, any 
school, in any theater, or any place of worship, mall, or any 
  We have an obligation to our children to ensure that Newtown marks a 
turning point that made us finally say, ``Enough is enough.'' We must 
come together to build an America where our children do not have to 
live in fear, and where they really believe that they have a future. 
Many of my young people in my district don't even think they have a 
future, and this is a very sad state of affairs that we've got to turn 
  Recently, I had an event in my district in West Oakland. It was the 
unveiling of a mural painted by several talented young artists. This 
``Tree of Life'' mural depicted the hope and the faith that my young 
people have for a future from violence and without violence. Yet 
they've seen and experienced so much gun violence in their communities 
throughout their young years, but they still have a lot of hope, and 
they're counting on us here to make sure that their dream lives.
  Too many of my constituents have been affected by gun violence, have 
pleaded for help in protecting their children from the horrors of gun 
violence, only to see the status quo at the Federal level.
  Mr. Speaker, we need to take some serious action that includes what 
we've heard today, and I'll reiterate, commonsense measures such as the 
Federal gun buyback programs, banning high-capacity magazines, 
expanding the 24-hour background check, closing gun show loopholes, and 
reinstating the assault weapons ban. We need to do this immediately.
  But we also need to work to end domestic violence in our homes and 
reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. We need to do this right 
  We must also seek input from our young people, community 
stakeholders, faith community leaders, and others. We can work together 
to identify the root causes of this Nation's more than 16,000 homicides 
a year.
  Let me call to your attention the work of a magnificent community-
based organization in my district that I actually am very proud of, 
that I helped found in the early nineties, called the Martin Luther 
King, Jr. Freedom Center. These young people continue to work on 
conflict resolution and violence prevention efforts day and night, but 
they constantly tell us that their work is thwarted by too many guns on 
the street. And so we have to pass these gun safety measures.
  We have to repeal the Tiahrt amendment, which I know Congresswoman 
Speier and Mr. Moran and myself and other appropriators are working to 
do. And we must, as part of this, rededicate ourselves to getting the 
guns off of the street and working for, finally, a culture of peace and 
  Thank you again for your leadership.
  Ms. SPEIER. Thank you to the gentlelady from California.
  We now are joined by the gentlewoman from California (Mrs. 
Napolitano), who has been a voice for mental health reform in this 
country for decades. I yield such time as she may consume.

[[Page H487]]

  Mrs. NAPOLITANO. Thank you, Gentlelady Speier, for being our lead on 
the gun prevention, gun violence prevention.
  One of the things we don't talk about is a mental health component on 
which Congress has got to act. We've got to make sure that we bring it 
to the forefront. We've got to fund the programs to be able to help our 
communities deal with the mental health issues, elevate it to the level 
of other illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart issues.
  We need to destigmatize it. It will not solve itself. We need to end 
the school tragedies, the government office attacks. Mental illness is 
an invisible illness. We don't talk about it, we don't listen to it, 
and we don't want to share it because of the stigma. We need to educate 
our public.
  Children at a young level can be identified when they're beginning to 
have emotional disorders that can be addressed at a very early age. 
Now, that's not to say--there's many reasons why we need to go, and the 
time does not allow me to go into it, but when you hear that 2,000 
people are killed, how many are maimed? What is the cost to society and 
the cost to our business, to the law enforcement? And, as you say, they 
are very much in favor of controlling the guns on the street, the high-
capacity, the assault weapons.

                              {time}  1450

  And women are highly in favor. As you can tell, most of your speakers 
are women who understand this is our children, our grandchildren, our 
neighbors, our friends who are impacted. And we need to be able to fund 
mental health services at the local level so it can be addressed and 
help can be found for them.
  I've introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act, H.R. 628, which was 
a companion to Senator Franken's Senate bill 195. But I must ask that 
the public has got to raise their voice. Email, fax, mail, phone your 
Member of Congress, and tell them we need to pass reform.
  Ms. SPEIER. I thank the gentlelady from California.
  I now welcome our new colleague from California, a colleague who I 
have served in the State legislature with for many years, Congressman 
Alan Lowenthal.
  Mr. LOWENTHAL. I want to thank the gentlelady from California for 
calling us and bringing us together to discuss this very important 
  I stand here and join my colleagues as we put forth responsible 
solutions to reduce gun violence in our communities and throughout our 
country. It was my honor to introduce from my district Peggy McCrum, 
the chapter leader of the Long Beach Area Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun 
Violence, at yesterday's conference hosted by the Brady Campaign and 
Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
  Three decades ago, her brother, Robert Kelly, was shot and killed by 
a complete stranger as he walked to his car, unaware that any peril 
awaited him. Peggy's brother, Robert; the victims of tragedies that 
occurred in Newtown and Aurora's mass shooting; and the thousands of 
Americans whose lives are ended each year by gun violence should serve 
as a reminder to all of us about the fragility of human life and our 
ability as Members of Congress to enact commonsense legislation 
necessary to prevent such horrific tragedies from continuing to 
devastate innocent Americans.
  I stand here today in total support of a ban on military-style 
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, similar to the gun laws 
that we have in California. These instruments of mass destruction have 
no place in our society outside of the military. And I thank my 
colleagues on the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, especially 
Congressman Thompson and Congresswoman Pelosi, for leading the charge 
on this effort.
  The tragedy of gun violence will not be solved just by banning 
assault weapons and ammunition alone. We must strengthen our current 
background check system as well as the National Instant Criminal 
Background Check System. We must increase access to mental health 
services, we must increase the student-to-counselor ratio in our 
schools, and we must lift the research ban on the Centers for Disease 
Control and the National Institutes of Health. All of these commonsense 
proposals are crucial to achieving the meaningful reforms that will 
save countless lives.
  As a community psychologist, I understand that early identification 
and treatment of mental illness is the key to preventing potentially 
harmful acts. That being said, I am proud to cosponsor Congresswoman 
Barbara Lee's Student Support Act, as well as Congresswoman Grace 
Napolitano's Mental Health in Schools Act. Both of these bills will 
address the growing mental health needs of our Nation's 95,000 
  I do not believe in taking away any American's Second Amendment 
rights. Just as you cannot yell ``fire'' in a movie theater, I believe 
you cannot own and use weapons that are capable of killing 20 school 
children in a matter of seconds.
  To conclude, I think we all must continue to listen to those who have 
been injured by gun violence, to survivors, to law enforcement, and 
even to those who speak out against gun law reforms. We will not be 
able to reach common ground on this issue unless we keep an open mind 
to all of the voices in America.
  Madam Speaker, I want to thank the gentlelady from California for 
calling us together to discuss this important issue.
  I stand here today to join my colleagues as we put forth responsible 
solutions to reduce gun violence in our communities and throughout our 
  It was my honor to introduce from my district Peggy McCrum, the 
Chapter Leader of Long Beach Area Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun 
Violence at yesterday's press conference hosted by the Brady Campaign 
and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Three decades ago, her brother Robert 
Kelly was shot and killed by a complete stranger as he was walking to 
his parked car--unaware of the perils that awaited him.
  It can be all too easy to see Robert as a statistic on a crime map, 
but he--like all victims of senseless violence--was much, much more. He 
was a son . . . a brother . . . and a loved one. He was 28 years old; a 
graduate of Cal State Long Beach who was excited about starting his 
career at an accounting software firm. That future . . . his future . . 
. ended all too soon at the hands of a criminal with a gun. To date, 
the killer has not been found.
  None of us are statistics. We are all living, breathing caring people 
with real lives and hopes and dreams, and we all deserve the freedom to 
feel safe from gun violence, be it in our schools, our movie theaters, 
or our streets.
  Peggy's brother Robert, the victims of tragedies like the Newtown and 
Aurora mass shootings, and the thousands of Americans whose lives are 
ended each year by gun violence, will never be forgotten; they should 
serve as a reminder to us of the fragility of human life and our 
ability as members of Congress to enact commonsense legislation 
necessary to prevent such horrific tragedies from continuing to 
devastate innocent Americans.
  These children, their parents, and all of the families who have been 
affected by the senseless acts of violence that left our country 
shocked and in disbelief are counting on us to do something--anything 
to ensure that they have the freedom to feel safe in their schools and 
  I stand here today in open support of a ban on military-style assault 
weapons and high-capacity magazines, similar to the gun laws we have in 
California. These instruments of mass destruction have no place in our 
society outside of the military, and I thank all of my colleagues on 
the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, especially Congressman Thompson 
and Congresswoman Pelosi, for leading the charge on this effort.
  The tragedy of gun violence will not be solved by banning assault 
weapons and ammunition alone. We must strengthen our current background 
check system, as well as the National Instant Criminal Background Check 
System (NICS) system; we must increase access to mental health 
services; we must increase the student-to-counselor ratio in our 
children's schools; and we must lift the research ban on the Centers 
for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 
All of these commonsense proposals are crucial to achieving meaningful 
reforms that will save countless lives.
  As a Community Psychologist, I understand that the early 
identification and treatment of mental illnesses is the key to 
preventing potentially harmful acts. That being said, I am proud to 
cosponsor Congresswoman Barbara Lee's Student Support Act and 
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano's Mental Health in Schools Act. Both of 
these bills would address the growing mental health needs in our 
nation's 95,000 public schools.
  The American people want action, and they are demanding a plan. My 
colleagues, I stand

[[Page H488]]

here wanting and demanding a plan. As the President said in his State 
of the Union address, these victims deserve a vote.
  However, I do not, I repeat, I do not believe in taking away any 
American's Second Amendment right. Just as you cannot yell ``fire'' in 
a movie theatre, I believe you cannot own weapons capable of killing 20 
school children in a matter of seconds. The United States Supreme Court 
ruling on Heller v. DC clearly stated that there are, indeed, 
limitations to the Second Amendment, and I stand with that ruling. 
Heller v. DC was not meant to strip gun owners of the rights, it was 
meant to instill a greater sense of responsibility that comes with 
owning a gun.
  I am in favor of protecting an individual's right to own a gun; I 
also want to help create a more accountable gun culture--one that 
upholds Americans' constitutional right to bear arms, and keeps us safe 
from harm. The constitutional right to own a gun and the God-given 
human right to feel safe from gun violence is not mutually exclusive.
  I want to conclude by saying that we must all continue to listen to 
the victims, the survivors, and even those who speak out against gun 
law reforms; we will not be able to reach common ground on this issue 
unless we keep an open mind to all of the voices of the American 
  Thank you.
  Ms. SPEIER. I thank the gentleman from California for his thoughtful 
remarks. And I want to thank each and every one of you who has 
participated in this Special Order. It's something that we must do week 
after week so that our message gets out to the American people and so 
that they truly understand what has happened in this country over the 
last 20 years that has taken away so many commonsense laws that were on 
the books to provide the kind of safe and sane laws to make sure that 
everyone who owns a gun has it appropriately and everyone who shouldn't 
own a gun, doesn't have a gun.
  This is our to-do list:
  Pass the universal background check, pass a ban on large magazines, 
pass an assault weapon ban, crack down on gun trafficking, remove the 
handcuffs on law enforcement, remove the gag order on gun safety 
research, keep illegal and unwanted guns off the street, invest in gun 
safety technology R&D, close the holes in our mental health system, and 
take steps to enhance school safety.
  Someone said:

       Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do 
     something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must 
     act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.

  These are the words of our own Gabby Giffords in the Senate just a 
couple of weeks ago. It still sends shivers up and down my spine. Gabby 
almost lost her life. We owe it to Gabby, we owe it to the 26 people 
who lost their lives in Newtown, the countless people who lost their 
lives in Aurora and Columbine, and the 32 people each and ever day in 
this country who lose their lives to gun violence. We owe it to the 
American people. Let's act.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. MENG. Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great passion and urgency to 
talk about our need, as Members of Congress, to strengthen our Nation's 
gun violence prevention laws. Last night at the State of the Union, 
President Obama said it best--gun violence victims deserve a vote. From 
Newtown to Aurora, Oak Creek to Tucson and Blacksburg--these victims 
deserve a vote. Every day in this country, men, women and children die 
from gun violence. It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to 
live in fear when we send our children to school.
  I'm proud to be a member of the House Democratic Task Force on 
Reducing and Preventing Gun Violence. Last week, we issued a series of 
commonsense priorities that could make the difference in preventing 
future gun violence. One of the most basic priorities is implementing 
universal background checks. It is the only way to ensure that people 
who are legally barred from owning a gun are prevented from buying a 
gun. Right now, the law is voluntary--someone who fears failing a 
background check can simply avoid it by acquiring a gun from a private 
  Another commonsense measure is a bill I introduced, the Fire Sale 
Loophole Closing Act, that prevents gun dealers whose licenses were 
revoked from reclassifying their inventory as personal and then selling 
the same guns as a private seller. We have to close these loopholes. 
These practices of getting around the law need to stop. I urge my 
colleagues to bring these commonsense gun safety laws to the floor for 
a vote because President Obama was right--our victims deserve a vote.