Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke regarding Democratic priorities on gun safety legislation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewedHere:
I’m sure many of you in this room and many Americans around the country watched the president’s meeting on gun violence yesterday and were rather stunned and surprised – many of us pleasantly – by what we saw.
First, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. The president said a lot of the right things yesterday.
He seemed to strongly endorse universal background checks to ensure that people who shouldn’t have a gun don’t have access to one. He seemed open to an assault weapons ban and other measures to tackle gun safety. And he agreed with Democrats that passing just Fix NICS is not nearly enough – we need to do a lot more.
Importantly, the president acknowledged that taking meaningful steps to improve gun safety is going to require bucking the NRA. He seemed willing and ready to do it, and even pushed Republicans to do the same.
So the meeting and the president’s comments were an encouraging step. Of course, in similar meetings we’ve been disappointed in the past. It was just this January where the president held a bipartisan meeting on a thorny issue, immigration, and seemed interested in finding common ground. He said he was willing to buck the extremes, and encouraged lawmakers to act.
Unfortunately the president was pulled back by the hard right, and prevented a bipartisan proposal from emerging.
That happened several times. That cannot happen on guns.
What should happen next after the meeting?
For the last several days, our Democratic caucus has been discussing the issue of gun safety, and what Congress ought to debate and pass.
We have come together on a comprehensive, three part plan that we’re announcing today.
First, we believe that Congress must pass tough legislation that closes existing loopholes in the background check system.
At a minimum, that legislation should close the gun show and Internet sales loopholes. Not having background checks at gun shows is like checking IDs at the liquor store but not at the bar – it makes no sense. I wrote the Brady law, and when I wrote it, gun shows were not nearly as popular as they are today. We also must close the Internet sale of guns without background checks. When we wrote the Brady law, there was no Internet, so obviously there was no prohibition. We need to close these loopholes and update our background check system to make it truly comprehensive.
Many Democrats would like to do more than just close the loopholes, and we hope our Republican colleagues will join us – but to do so would be a significant accomplishment, and of course we want to make sure that spousal abuse is treated appropriately in a background check bill.
Second, we will be pushing our Republican colleagues to pass legislation that allows for protective orders to temporarily disarm individuals who have shown credible signs of being a harm to themselves or to others.
We Democrats believe that family members, members of a household, or law enforcement should be able to petition a court to ensure that these individuals don’t have access to a firearm while they are a clear danger to others.
And third, we believe there should be a debate on assault weapons on the floor of the Senate. Not every member of our caucus will support that ban, but the vast majority will. If the president can get some Republicans to vote for the assault weapons ban, and he indicated openness to supporting it yesterday, we can pass it soon.
These comprehensive proposals are designed to plug the wide range of loopholes and deficiencies in our gun safety laws. We have seen an epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. Each one reveals new loopholes and gaps in gun safety. Rather than just plugging one leak, we need a holistic approach that improves our gun safety laws from top to bottom.
And the president has either supported, or shown a willingness to support, all of these. All three.
This is our proposal. Not every Democrat will agree with every piece, but my caucus is prepared to provide a very large number of votes to get these passed.
But we can’t do it alone. Today, I am strongly urging the president to follow through on his comments yesterday by endorsing these proposals, and pushing Republican leaders in Congress to once and for all buck the NRA and finally get this done.
The president started on the right foot, but we must work together to get it done. Words alone will not prevent the next mass shooting. One public meeting will not close background check loopholes. One hour of television won’t get assault weapons off our streets.
The NRA has had the Republican Party in a headlock for decades – only the president, this president, will have the power to overcome their strength and finally get his Republican allies on the Hill to move to a place that embraces some common sense gun safety policies.
America is crying out for it. The students in Florida are crying out for it. It has vast support from one end of America to the other, among people of all political persuasions and all political parties. Policies that are supported by the vast, vast majority of the American public, fed up with gun violence, has now the best chance we have had in decades of becoming law, but only, only with the president’s help.
The coming days will prove whether the president’s words yesterday were an aberration – I hope not - or the beginning of the march towards meaningful gun safety legislation.
I hope, for the communities that have been ripped apart by gun violence, for the memory of the Stoneman Douglas victims, for the Sandy Hook parents, that this time will truly be different.