Pelosi: No right to moments of silence without action on gun violence

Pelosi: No right to moments of silence without action on gun violence
© Getty Images

Congress has no right to moments of silence for victims of gun violence unless lawmakers intend to take action to prevent it, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) charged Thursday.

"Gun violence is a crisis of epidemic proportion in our nation," she said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "We've had far too many moments of silence on the floor of the House. And while it is right to respectfully acknowledge the losses, we can no longer remain silent.

"What gives us the right to hold moments of silence when we do nothing to act upon the cause of the grief?"

ADVERTISEMENT

Pelosi's comments were in response to Wednesday's shooting massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., where two suspects killed 14 people and injured another 20.

That tragedy came on the heels of another high-profile mass shooting last Friday in Colorado Springs, where a lone suspect killed three people and injured another nine.

On Tuesday, Colorado lawmakers led a moment of silence on the House floor to mourn the victims and honor their families. A similar ritual is expected next week for the San Bernardino tragedy.

But Pelosi, joining a growing number of Democrats, says such gestures are empty if lawmakers oppose specific policies aimed at tackling the problem.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms MORE (D-Conn.) suggested Wednesday that Congress's inaction makes lawmakers complicit in the violence.

"Your 'thoughts' should be about steps to take to stop this carnage," Murphy tweeted. "Your 'prayers' should be for forgiveness if you do nothing — again."

Pelosi singled out three specific reforms she said would both stem gun violence and attract enough bipartisan support to pass through Congress, if GOP leaders would bring them to the floor.

First, she pushed an expansion of mandatory background checks preceding gun sales — a requirement currently limited only to licensed firearms dealers.

Second, she called for Congress to adopt legislation barring those on the FBI's terrorist watch list from buying or owning guns — a prohibition not currently in place.

And third, she urged Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.) to create a special committee charged with studying gun violence and proposing specific policies for reining it in.

"They have a committee to harass Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment MORE. They have a committee to attack women's health," Pelosi charged. "They could possibly do something the American people truly want and that is to have a select committee on gun safety."

She shouldn't hold her breath.

An overwhelming majority of Republicans oppose any move to toughen gun laws. And that dynamic hasn't changed in the wake of a long string of mass shootings that include the near-killing of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) in 2011; the 2012 shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead; the June killing of nine parishioners at an African-American church in Charleston, S.C.; and the recent tragedies in Colorado and San Bernardino.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on Tuesday lamented that Congress would react to the Colorado Springs shooting with a moment of silence but no policy reforms — a strategy he warned would do nothing to prevent the next tragedy.

"It's hard to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives when this happens, to look around and wonder which of your colleagues will stand in the well next week when someone in their community falls victim to a mass shooting," Swalwell said.

"It could be a Republican, it could be a Democrat, it could be from the East Coast, it could be from the West Coast, it could be from the Midwest or the South. But there will be somebody in the coming weeks who will stand on the floor to honor people in their community who have died, until we do something about it."

He was all too prescient. The San Bernardino shooting happened the very next day.