Gillibrand: “Americans are being slaughtered”

Kirsten Gillibrand

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

Following the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday that killed 26 people, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor this afternoon to call out Congress’s failure to take action against gun violence.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered: 

Mr. President, I rise to speak about the mass shooting in Texas yesterday – the latest mass shooting in what seems a like never-ending gun violence in our country.

My heart breaks for the victims and their families, and for the community of Sutherland Springs in Texas.

We are still gathering all the facts about this specific crime.

We are still learning about what happened, how this murderer was able to purchase a gun, whatever his twisted rationale was for walking into a House of Worship in a small town and slaughtering more than twenty people – including young children – with an assault weapon.

Our incredible law enforcement officials are working hard to answer all of that.

But the most important fact of all is something we already know very well:

This was yet another case where someone on American soil, who had absolutely no business getting his hands on a weapon of war, was able to get one, and use it to commit heinous mass murder.

Of the five worst mass shootings in our history, three of them have occurred in just the past 17 months.

Think about that.

In a small town in America, nearly seven percent of the town’s population was slaughtered, just because they went to church that day.

The weapon he used was based on a military weapon designed for a warzone.

But this was not a warzone.

It was a church. People were singing, and praying, and savoring life.

I reject the notion that is it “too soon” to act. If not now, then when?

We should ban assault weapons and bump stocks today!

People who don’t want to have an honest conversation say we need to wait. Well for how long?

Because we wait, we wait, and we will see evil rear its ugly head over and over again – and we are told to wait again.

We have enough information today for Congress to do its job, and try to keep our constituents safe from gun violence.

We had enough information before yesterday to act.

But what Congress does not have, is the political will to act.

My friends, this must change.

Thoughts and prayers are not going to stop the next mass shooting.

Merely talking about something, something, for the mentally ill to obtain guns isn’t going to stop the next deranged person with hate in their soul from committing yet another mass murder.

And the Second Amendment does not mean that Americans should have to risk getting shot because they walked down the wrong street in a city, or decided to go to a music festival in Las Vegas, or a nightclub in Orlando, or an elementary school in Newtown, or a movie theater in Aurora…

Or a church on a Sunday in Texas.

After each of these horrific acts of violence, what happened here in Congress?

Nothing.

More than a month after Las Vegas, we still can’t even tackle the most obvious fixes – like banning bump stocks.

Plain and simple, Americans are being slaughtered, and Congress is refusing to protect them.

And I hear my colleagues who rightly say we can’t pass laws to stop every instance of a deranged gunman who wants to kill innocent men, women, and children – just like our other criminal laws won’t necessarily stop every instance of crime.

But there is no excuse for not even trying.

Everyone in this chamber knows that a shooting in a church is something that should never happen in this country.

Mr. President, I think you would agree with that. I think everyone who serves in this chamber would agree with that.

So then why aren’t we doing anything to stop this violence?

Why aren’t we making it harder for a crazed, evil person to get their hands on a weapon of war?

It makes me wonder what our colleagues are waiting for.

Are they waiting for the NRA to come in and give them cover, and tell them it’s okay to act?

Are they waiting for the NRA to give them permission to stand up and do something?

If the NRA said today, “Assault rifles or bump stocks should be banned,” it would be done tomorrow.

That is the sad truth of this place.

But we know the NRA won’t say that, because they want to keep selling these weapons of war to anyone who is willing to buy them, no matter how unsafe it makes the rest of us.

Congress has caved in over and over again to the enormous pressure from the NRA and the gun industry, which just wants to protect their profits, and has ignored the vast majority of Americans – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – who support commonsense measures to keep their fellow Americans safe.

These mass slaughters continue, and Congress has done nothing. Absolutely nothing.

To me, this is a monumental failure of leadership – and it’s no wonder that gun violence and mass shootings happen here at a higher rate than any other developed country in the world.

This has to change.

It’s not enough to solve the individual crime after the fact – we have to take meaningful, real action to prevent the next one.

That is what has to happen.

And Mr. President, to those who doubt that Congress can actually get something done, we already know that depending on the motivation, depending on whom Congress is actually listening to, Congress is fully capable of moving quickly to enact change – instead of acting like its hands are tied and refusing to do anything, which is what is happening right now.

Far more often than not, Congress listens to the special interests instead of the people who actually elect them to keep them safe.

Listen to the shameful state of our gun laws now, and tell me if you think these laws came about because families in our states demanded them – or was it because the NRA demanded them?

Congress has turned a collective back on strengthening and expanding our national background check system.

We should be fixing the holes in the system – whatever necessary – not just shrugging our shoulders and saying there’s nothing that can be done.

Who do you think demanded that we don’t fix the background check system – was it families in your state, or was it the NRA?

Congress refuses to ban high-capacity magazines, which are literally made for war and let killers fire dozens of rounds without having to stop and reload.

Who do you think demanded that – families or the NRA?

Congress still refuses to ban assault weapons, which are designed for war, designed to kill as many people as possible as rapidly as possible – but are given different names so they can be sold in the civilian world.

Who do you think demanded that – our families or the NRA?

Congress is on the verge of passing legislation to make it much easier right now for killers to buy suppressors – known by many of us as silencers – to attach to their weapons and make it harder for the police to do their jobs and catch violent criminals.

And who do you think demanded that – certainly not the police, not our families. The NRA.

Congress is dragging its feet on banning bump stocks, the inexpensive piece of equipment that the killer in Las Vegas used to turn his already powerful firearm into an automatic weapon capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute.

Who do you think demanded that – families or the NRA?

Just this February, Congress overturned a rule that had prevented people who were so incapacitated that they could no longer handle their own finances, from getting their hands on a gun.

Who do you think demanded that – families or the NRA?

Congress even went so far as to pass a law that blocked the Centers for Disease Control from studying, from studying, the issue of gun deaths the way they are allowed to study any other cause of death in this country.

Why? Because it’s an attempt to hide the overwhelming data showing that keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people would decrease gun crime.

Who do you think demanded that, who do you think demanded that? That Congress suppress the facts and the alarming data about gun violence – do you think it was families or the NRA?

Mr. President, this really has to change. Congress needs to start protecting the people that we were elected to represent.

 

Their voices matter, and it really, it really does matter who you are listening to. Their voices matter and they must be heard.

We must listen, and enact change that would actually help to keep our states safer from gun violence.

We are the ones that need to act. We can’t ignore our responsibility to keep our country safe from this kind of violence.

And to all of the people who are watching us right now, I would say this:

After all of these massacres, pay attention to what your elected leaders are saying. Pay attention to what they are actually doing.

Watch how they react. Look closely at how they use their time here. Listen to what they say or don’t say.

After these mass shootings, did they tell you that we were going to bow our heads for a moment of silence, and leave it there?

Did they tell you that we were going to fight with every bit of energy to actually fix these broken gun laws and protect the American citizens?

Democracy only works when regular people stand up and demand action.

I urge everyone listening today to demand that action. To hold elected leaders accountable and to ask them to pass meaningful gun reform now.

I yield the floor.

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