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Starting a Conversation on Gun Violence

Jun 24, 2015

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) urged his colleagues on the floor to break the silence, stop the violence, and start the conversation about the gun violence epidemic in America.

Below is a video and transcript of the speech. 

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, last week, nine parishioners were shot and killed inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, one of the oldest African American churches in the United States. 

In the days following the horrific tragedy in Charleston, we pause to reflect and send our prayers to families grieving an unimaginable loss.  

I wish this tragedy in Charleston was an isolated incident, but it seems to be part of a terrible recurring pattern. 

After national tragedies, society should engage in a discussion about how to address and potentially prevent such tragedies from happening again. 

Let’s remember that after Katrina we talked about FEMA and national readiness.

But the gun lobby doesn't want us to have this conversation. They accuse anyone who tries with exploiting the deaths of innocent people.

With that logic, we couldn’t talk about solutions when 13 people were killed and 8 were injured during a shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard.

Or after a person opened fire during a midnight screening of the film “The Dark Knight Rises” in 2012, killing 12 and injuring 58 others. 

Or when 28 people were shot and killed, including 20 innocent children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Or when a man shot 3 people and killed 7 others at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Or when 14 people were shot and 6 were killed in 2011 during a constituent meeting hosted by our colleague, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson. 

Or when a man opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, killing 13 people, injuring 30 others. 

Or in 2008 when a man opened fire on a lecture hall at North Illinois University, shooting 21 students and killing 6.

Or when a senior at Virginia Tech went on a shooting rampage on campus in 2007, killing 33 people and injuring 23 others. 

Or when two seniors at Columbine High School attacked their classmates and teachers, wounding 24 and killing 15. 

Or in Chicago and cities across the country, which experience gun tragedies every day.

Yet since I’ve come to this Congress nearly seven years ago, the People’s House has refused to hold even one hearing on the epidemic of gun violence we are facing.

Last Sunday ALONE in Chicago, 14 people were shot and one man was killed, all within the matter of hours. 

In May, Chicago saw 300 people shot and 37 people killed in shootings. 

Every day in America, 297 people are shot and nearly 90 people are killed by guns.  

According to Harvard University researchers, the rate of mass shootings has increased threefold since 2011, occurring an average of every 64 days.

Let me repeat that, a mass shooting occurs in the U.S. on the average of every 64 days!

When will enough be enough? 

When will we stand up and say: we may not be able to stop every crime, but we can stop some of them and at least minimize the damage of others?

When will we realize and acknowledge that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries?

When will we finally be able to have a national discussion about gun violence? 

Instead the gun lobby stymies debate by arguing that no gun regulation can prevent criminals and the mentally ill from killing people with guns. 

But I don't buy that. Sure, no single law or set of laws can prevent every act of senseless violence. 

Ending the American epidemic of gun violence will require more than a change in law. It’s clear we need a change in our culture.

But oftentimes changing our culture STARTS with changing our laws. By enacting reasonable reforms, we can make a difference. 

We can make it more difficult for would-be assassins to access guns. 

We can ensure every gun in America is purchased after a background check, rather than only 60 percent of guns as is currently the case. 

We can crack down on the flow of illegal guns onto our streets by improving gun trafficking data. 

And, we can reduce the fatality rate by banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines that are designed exclusively for killing dozens of people at once.

Let’s face it, when you have an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine, you are not hunting deer, you are hunting people. 

The gun lobby tries to argue that any attempt to regulate gun access is an attempt to restrict gun access. 

But there is such a thing as common-sense, middle ground gun reform and most gun owners support it. 

Can we stop every shooting? No. 

But can we reduce their frequency and deadliness? Absolutely. 

The first step toward keeping dangerous guns out of the hands of dangerous people is to begin the conversation. 

Let's break the silence, stop the violence, and start the conversation.

Thank you and I yield back.