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The Tragedy of Inaction

Oct 7, 2015

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) warned his colleagues on the House floor about the second tragedy following the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon – the tragedy of inaction by Congress to act on gun violence.

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.

Mr. Speaker,

Last Thursday, Americans witnessed yet another tragedy with the fatal shooting of nine people in Roseburg, Oregon.

Five young kids who had so much more life left to live;

Three adults who had gone back to school to better themselves and their families;

And an assistant professor of English, who used his writing talents to teach others – all gone too soon.

Their lives lost in tragedy—the kind of tragedy that our nation has suffered with increasing regularity.

There have been more mass shootings this year then there have been calendar days. 294 mass shootings in less than 280 days.

In 2015 alone, there have been nearly 40,000 gun violence tragedies with nearly 10,000 people killed and 20,000 wounded.

Yet sadly, each gun violence tragedy is met with another tragedy here in Congress: the tragedy of inaction.

People are dying. People are dying from gun violence every single day in America. And this Congress does nothing.

And as President Obama said last week, “we collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”

I’ve been a Member of the House of Representatives for nearly seven years.

In that time, tens of thousands of lives have been lost, but this body has refused to hold even one hearing addressing the gun violence epidemic that is plaguing our country.

In that time, not even once have we had a vote on the floor on anything, anything related to gun violence.

And it’s not for a lack of ideas. We know from other countries what works.

Other countries, not much different from ours, have tackled this issue with remarkable results.

More than 90 gun-related bills offering various ways – large and small – for us to lessen the death toll are just sitting in Committee waiting for action.

Yet we refuse to even try.

Forget about new gun laws, Congress has made it harder for law enforcement to carry out current laws.

It’s gotten so bad that Congress refuses to allow federal agencies to even study this issue because they are afraid of what doctors and scientists might tell them, will tell them.

In June during the Labor-HHS-Education markup, and just one week after the tragedy in Charleston,

An amendment to end the twenty-year prohibition on federal funding on research related to gun violence was defeated by a unanimous Republican majority.

Congress refuses to act and stands in the way when others try.

Why is this issue different than other issues?

What is it about these lives that matter less than those lost to terrorism or car accidents or cancer?

Unless the status quo in Congress changes, we will continue to lose American lives to gun violence.

In June, I urged my colleagues to break the silence, stop the violence, and start the conversation about the gun violence in America.

We were reeling from the tragedy in Charleston, and I recounted the other lives we had lost to guns in Navy Yard, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, Roanoke, Sandy Hook, Tucson, and Fort Hood.

I asked my colleagues – when will enough be enough?

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?

The answer by House leadership has been resounding silence.

The first tragedy of last week was the loss of nine American lives.

But the second tragedy is the continuing inaction of Congress to do anything about it.

No legislation will stop every tragedy, but passing commonsense gun laws will at least stop some.

It is the LEAST we can do to honor the memory of those we’ve lost to gun violence and prevent the list of lives lost from growing.

Thank you and I yield back.