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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Plague Of Gun Violence And Yesterday’s Mass Shooting At Robb Elementary School In Uvalde, Texas

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the plague of gun violence in America most recently exemplified by yesterday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

There is a plague – a plague – upon this nation: a plague of gun violence that has taken over this country.

Two weeks ago, that plague claimed the lives of ten Black Americans who were massacred in broad daylight while shopping at a grocery store in Buffalo. They were Black and they were in a grocery store. That is the reason they were shot by an 18-year-old with an AR-15.

And yesterday, just ten days after Buffalo, that plague struck again in Uvalde Texas, where nineteen – nineteen – innocent children and two teachers were gunned down at Robb Elementary. In the middle of the school day. Just before the start of summer, just before the start of summer when these kids were looking forward to having such a wonderful time with their family and friends, gone. They're gone.

The shooter crashed his truck near the school, overpowered the police already at the scene, and reportedly began shooting inside a fourth grade classroom.

Nineteen kids. Two teachers. Forever gone in the blink of an eye.

America’s gun epidemic is unmatched by any of our peer nations in the world.

No American is safe from it; and the American people are sick and tired of it.

But we also have a problem – a big problem – here in the United States Senate.

The problem in the Senate is simple. Too many members on the other side of the aisle are disconnected from the suffering of the American people. Too many members on that side care more about the NRA than they do about families who grieve victims of gun violence.

As I said, the American people are sick and tired of mass shootings.

They’re sick and tired about active shooter alerts.

They’re sick and tired of children – children! Nine -year-olds, ten-year olds, eleven-year olds being shot, gunned down in their schools.

When I read the news of yesterday’s shooting, I ached for the families and then thought, what if it was one of my children? I imagined what I would feel if this happened to one of them. The mere thought – just thinking about it – was a gut punch in my stomach. The fear sent ripples down my spine.

To my Republican colleagues: imagine if it happened to you. Imagine if this was your kid or your grandkid. How would you feel? Could you ever forgive yourself for not supporting a simple law that would make these mass shootings less likely?

Please, please, please, damn it, put yourself in the shoes of these parents for once.

Maybe that thought – putting that thought, putting yourself in the shoes of these parents instead of the in the arms of the NRA – might let you wriggle free from the vice-like grip of the NRA, might free you to act on even a simple measure.

For the sake of these children, these nine-year olds, these ten-year olds, these 11-year olds, please, damn it please. Think if it was your child or grandchild.

It wasn’t always this way in Congress. Nearly 30 years ago, I was proud to be the author of the Brady bill and a leader of the assault weapons bans.

These were major legislative accomplishments, and they worked because they were good, common sense laws.

And they passed because both sides of the aisle worked together and because they became law, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands perhaps of lives were saved.  Children, elderly people, people of color, you name it. People now walking the streets who might have been dead had we not passed these laws.

But today, the NRA has made it all but impossible for even the bare minimum to move forward in Congress, and the other side is all too ready to bow in obeisance to the NRA in service of their whims.

These types of shootings used to be rare.

So rare, in fact, that each occurrence stood apart as a singular event.

But now these shootings happen so frequently that the Nation can barely keep up, barely mourn the 10 people shot in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY before being rocked to our collective core by the slaughter of 19 elementary school children in the predominantly Latino community of Uvalde, TX.

These shootings happen everywhere. Movie theaters. Churches. Synagogues. Concerts. Nightclubs. Grocery stores. College campuses. High schools. Elementary schools.

Elementary schools! With beautiful children getting ready to move out into the prime of life.

Honestly, I thought Sandy Hook ten years ago would be the breaking point.

I thought that would be the tragedy that forced Republicans to examine their conscience and think ‘Oh God, we can’t allow school children to be slaughtered.’

Well, I was wrong. The slaughter of 20 elementary school children in Sandy Hook didn’t move them.

We heard about their thoughts and their prayers. But no action.

Then came Aurora. And the Navy Yard.

Then, after Charleston, I thought, ‘maybe this! This is the moment. Nine Americans shot in a church? During Bible study? This has to move the Republicans here in the Senate.’

Nope. It didn’t. They gave a few more thoughts. A few more prayers. No real effort to solve the problem.

And so it continued on and on and on: San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Thousand Oaks, the Pittsburgh synagogue, Santa Fe, Texas, the El Paso Walmart, Dayton, Virginia Beach, Boulder, Buffalo, and now, Uvalde.

When will it end? We must act to have it end. Not thoughts and prayers, action.

After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton three years ago, the Republican leader promised that red flag laws and background checks would be front and center in a Senate debate. He was then Majority Leader. But then the Republicans did nothing. They ensured there was no debate. Just as they wanted. They don't want to debate this issue.

Indeed, all we hear from Republicans are thoughts. Prayers. And now there’s a new phrase: now some of my Republican colleagues want to ‘lift up’ the community.

That sounds heartening. But it does absolutely nothing – nothing – to prevent the next family from having to grieve for their loss.

It won’t do a single damn thing to prevent another life from being taken.

It won’t do a single damn thing to prevent another child from being shot at school! A 9-year-olds, a 10-year-old, an 11-year-old. Beautiful children.

You may have noticed that when they aren’t offering thoughts and prayers to distract from their inaction, many of my Republican colleagues focus on the motives of the shooters instead of focusing on the obvious common denominator. They talk about the real villain being mental illness, and say nothing of the fact that we are a nation suffocated by firearms.

Rates of mental illness are more or less the same across the developed world. The U.S. is not an outlier on mental illness.

But we are an outlier in the sheer number of guns available in this country. That is why we have so many shootings and other Western countries don't.

If mental illness were the simple cause, you’d see mass shootings happening all over the developed world.

But you don’t. What you do see, here in America, are enough guns to give every man woman and child in this nation a firearm, and still have nearly 70 million guns left over. 

What you do see is that it’s far too easy for people to access weapons in this country and then to use them to slaughter people—to slaughter children—by the dozens. By the dozens.

Again, America doesn’t stand out when it comes to the rates of mental illness, but we are unique among the world’s developed nations in that today, the leading cause of death among children is no longer a car accident, is no longer illness or malnourishment, the leading cause of death among children is a firearm.

The leading cause of death of children – do you hear that, my Republican colleagues – is a firearm.

Clearly many of these shooters had different motives but, at the end of the day, does the motive really matter to the family with an empty seat at their dinner table?

Children who lost parents don’t just care whether the shooter was mentally ill; they care that the shooter had ready access to a gun.

Spouses who lost their partners don’t just care that the shooter had a grudge or an agenda or a grievance; they care that the shooter had ready access to a gun.

Americans who lost friends and co-workers, and parishioners who lost fellow worshippers don’t just care whether the shooter wrote a manifesto; they care that the shooter had ready access to a gun.

They care that their loved ones have been taken from them by someone who had access to a gun.

Taken from them, while some Members of this body refuse to do what it takes to prevent those losses. Refuse to focus on the denominator to every single one of these shootings. Refuse to even do the bare minimum as they bow in obeisance to the wretched NRA.

So what do we do about it? If the slaughter of school children can’t convince Republicans to buck the NRA, what can we do?

There are some who want this body to quickly vote on sensible gun safety legislation – legislation supported by a vast majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike.

They want to see this body to vote quickly, so the American people can know which side each Senator is on. Which side each Senator is on. I’m sympathetic to that and I believe that accountability votes are important.

But, sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their Senators stand. They know.

They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this issue. Crystal clear.

Republicans don’t pretend that they support sensible gun safety legislation. They don’t pretend to be moved by the fact that 90% of Americans regardless of party support something as common sense as background checks, that the vast majority of gun owners support the background checks bill.

They don’t pretend that they want to keep guns out of the hands of those who might use weapons to shoot concert goers or movie watchers or worshippers or shoppers or children. They don’t pretend at all.

Just listen to them when they show up in obeisance to the NRA at the NRA’s convention in Houston, the same state as Uvalde on Friday.

They’ll offer their thoughts and prayers. They’ll say they want to lift up the community.

And then they’ll go back to their smoked filled rooms and assure the NRA and gun manufacturers that nothing will change; that they’ve got the NRA’s back.

No, this isn’t a case of Republicans hiding their position. They proudly tell the American people which side they’re on.

And America is much worse off for it. And if nothing does change, we are condemned to find ourselves right here once again very, very soon.

As I was reading the reports of the tragedy in Texas, I saw that Amanda Gorman, the young woman who mesmerized the nation at President Biden’s inauguration, tweeted The truth is, one nation under guns.” One nation under guns.

That is simply heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to think that that is the legacy that older generations are leaving behind for young Americans: one nation, under guns.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Our parents don’t need to drop their kids off at school and wonder if their kid will be next. That's in the thoughts of millions of moms and dads right now. Our citizens don’t have to endure the fear of getting groceries while constantly keeping an eye behind their backs. Again, millions of Americans are worried about that right now.

Americans can make a choice. Americans can reject the Republican guns-at-all-costs doctrine. Obeisance to the NRA. Not even voting for the most simple, sensitive, positive, and popular gun legislation. Americans can cast their vote in November for Senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns, with this issue – this issue – at the top of the voters’ lists.

In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now. I know this is a slim prospect. Very slim. All too slim. We've been burnt so many times before. But this is so important and I have such a firm belief taught to me by my late father, who passed was he in November, that if you do the right thing and persist, justice will eventually prevail. But you got to keep persisting, and we will. And for that reason alone, we must pursue action, and even ask Republicans again to join us. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Unlikely, burnt in the past, but their hearts might see what has happened and join us, do the right thing. They know it's the right thing.

They can work with us to craft legislation that would prevent needless loss of life. It is their choice. As Majority Leader I haven’t been shy about putting bipartisan legislation on the floor for a vote.

But bipartisanship means both parties must engage in crafting a bill, like happened in the House and Senate 30 years ago, with the Brady Law and the assault weapons ban. Democrats have been trying hard to work hard with Republicans – Senator Murphy, Senator Manchin – on legislation that will eventually pass and become law. The other side has refused.

There are so many options available to us. So many ideas. We just need some brave Republicans to stand athwart history, and yell Stop! To think, if it was your child, your grandchild, how would you feel, and would that move you to do something, something about this plague of guns?

Like my colleague Senator Murphy, I refuse to believe that we cannot find a path forward here. Make no mistake about it. If we can’t find a good, strong bill that has bipartisan support, we will continue to pursue this issue on our own. We have no choice. It’s too important. Lives are at stake.

I accept the fact that most of my Republican colleagues are not willing to do what it takes to prevent this needless loss of life. The NRA will have a hold on them. That’s a just a reality, unfortunately.

But it is unacceptable to the American people to think that there are not ten of my Republican colleagues – just ten – one out of five over here, who would be ready to work to pass something that would reduce this plague of gun violence.  

It unacceptable that are not ten Members of the Republican caucus willing to save lives. Find a way to do it.

And yet, that’s where we are. That’s where we are.

Another week.

Another American community devastated by mass shootings. All of us thinking of these nine and ten and 11-year-old children, just shot, gone! Another American community, Uvalde, which will never recover, like the other communities before it.

Will it yet be – Uvalde – another example of Republicans unwilling to do what it takes to keep Americans safe?