By: Sharon Aron Baron
Speaking out regarding the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando during a meeting of the House Rules Committee on June 13, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said he would not longer stand for moments of silence when gun violence is involved. Not out of disrespect for victims, but because there is absolutely too much silence.
Below is his full speech.
By now, we have all heard the gruesome details of this one appalling event. This shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. It was an act of hate and an act of terrorism, and it was perpetrated in this instance against the LGBTQ community.
I know this body will, in the coming days, take time to condemn this attack. We will hold moments of silence and discuss this atrocity in committee and on the House Floor, and have a classified briefing.
On the flight coming here today, three people approached me and all of them asked in a different way, “what are you going to do and why haven’t you done something?” – Congressman Alcee Hastings
I might add that we will probably learn as much reading the Washington Times and the New York Times as we are going to learn in a classified briefing.
For years, Democrats have called for reforms to our nation’s lax approach to firearms, through commonsense actions supported by the vast majority of Americans. Ms. Slaughter and Mr. McGovern, and you Mr. Chairman and I were here when we passed an assault weapons ban. Chuck Schumer, who is now in the Senate was in the House of Representatives and led that charge. Since that time, the calls about common sense gun action have gone unanswered by the House majority. All the while, we have suffered shooting after shooting.
Virginia Tech, Newtown, Charleston, Oak Creek, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and now Orlando: this list is larger than that. Ms. Slaughter pointed out 900 plus mass shootings in recent times.
But I need to ask the Majority, what are we going to do? We cannot deny the severity of this epidemic.
A man that we pretty much ran out of town, Dr. Satcher, identified gun violence as an epidemic and thought that we should approach it from that standpoint. And he was criticized all over the place for saying that as Surgeon General, that we had exacting responsibilities in the health field – mental health – as well as the epidemic of violence in our society.
And while the Majority, and I want to make it clear that there are some members in the Democratic Party that are also afraid of the National Rifle Association, continuously argues that we need to be tougher on terrorism, and we should, Republican leadership’s approach to guns is so backwards that you allow people like this man who was at one time on a watch to buy assault weapons. And the NRA has stood allowing that people like this are able to buy assault weapons.
Democrats continue to try to change this, some of us, and we continue to get blocked by the Majority and a few of us on our side.
For months, I have been saying that Congress is becoming increasingly culpable for gun violence in America.
On the flight coming here today, three people approached me and all of them asked in a different way, “what are you going to do and why haven’t you done something?”
Perhaps we’ve reached the point where our culpability is no longer in question.
It’s not the people in American that don’t want change; it’s the people in Congress that don’t want change.
After Sandy Hook, when 26 first grade children were murdered, this body did nothing.
After Tucson, an attack focused on one of our own colleagues at the time took place, this body did nothing.
After Charleston, one year ago this week, in a church where people were killed, this body did nothing.
Virginia, Colorado, San Diego: nothing.
American cities are tearing themselves apart, and this body continues to do nothing.
More than 30,000 people in our country are killed by guns every year. It escapes me: How do we still lack the courage to act?
So let me yield back to you Mr. Chairman and ask you and the Majority: do you support bringing commonsense gun control reform legislation to the floor immediately?
Do you believe that we should be keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists, and ensure that all background checks are strengthened, whether they are at gun shows or otherwise?
This nation has seen too much bloodshed, and something needs to happen, and happen now.
I am personally no longer going to participate in standing for moments of silence when gun violence is involved. Not out of disrespect for the victims, but because there is absolutely too much silence.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation. He represents Tamarac, Sunrise, North Lauderdale, Lauderdale Lakes, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek and Margate.