Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at a press event today marking the 20th anniversary of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and calling on Congress to immediately pass bipartisan legislation on background checks. Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks:
Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks
“Thank you, Dan. It’s an honor to be here with you. Thank you for your leadership, to be here of course with Sarah Brady, isn’t she remarkable? Isn’t she remarkable? Sherialyn Byrdsong, thank you for sharing your story with us. Sherialyn told me that the young man who shot her husband was on a spree – he shot 29 people. Two of them died, in two states. Just think of the recklessness and the unnecessary grief that was caused to their family. I’m glad to be here with [Congressman] Mike Thompson, who is leading the way in the House, and [Senator] Chuck Schumer in the Senate, but also in the House years ago. But, most of all, it’s an honor to be here with Sherialyn and the folks behind us here.
“At the beginning of every Congress we take an oath of office to protect and defend – that’s our first responsibility. It’s an honor to take that oath, but I’m ashamed to be here to face all of you not having finished the job yet.
“We must be relentless in how we pursue this, how we protect and defend the American people. In the two decades since the Brady Bill was signed into law, over two million gun requests did not get approved. Imagine, it stopped two million illegal gun purchases and helped protect millions of Americans from the incomprehensible tragedy felt by all of you here today.
“I want to talk about Sarah Brady because she says, ‘we have a strange definition for that, it means work hard, make progress, improve lives, capitalize, exploit in the best possible way, turn grief into action to save lives.’ And that’s just exactly what Jim and Sarah Brady did. Now, Mr. Schumer was our leader in the Congress on this issue, and he can attest to the fact that there was a full assault on this, the Brady Bill – at the time – which then became the Brady law.
“And you can just imagine the Bradys together. What an incredible team they were, and how effective they were. And you know they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Even if it was ‘no,’ then it was going to be ‘yes’ the next time. And I always tell this story, in fact I did at the anniversary a while back. Now we were totally – some of us new Members – totally in awe of Jim and Sarah Brady. Totally in awe. While we’re whipping our Members, we hesitated to approach them. So, I have the nerve to go up to Jim Brady – now, we had just lost the vote on the rule. So I went over, and I said, ‘Mr. Brady, Mr. Brady.’ I introduced myself and said, ‘we’ve all been working very hard. Our group came over here to whip this bill, to win, and to pay our respects to you.’ Now we had just lost the vote. And he said, ‘well, you’ve accomplished at least one of those things.’
“Anybody who thought that he wasn’t as sharp as a tack – right, Sarah? It was a family affair because it affected America’s families. And we must finish the job. And in the House we have legislation. I commend the vote in the Senate, a strong bipartisan vote. Not the 60 that is needed – for some reason.
“But in the House – and Mr. Schumer will talk to us about that, Senator Schumer who now moved on to the Senate. Thank God, thank God. Because he’s carried all that enthusiasm, all that knowledge, all of that commitment to the Senate. And, in the House, leading the way for us is Chairman Mike Thompson. I say Chairman because he’s the Chairman of our taskforce on it that has put forth common sense proposals. We’ve all gotten behind the Senate bill – he will talk about it – a bipartisan bill in the House. Now, I just go back to Abraham Lincoln. He said, ‘public sentiment is everything.’ Dan said in his remarks, ‘90 percent of the public.’ What more do people have to hear than 90 percent of the public supports Brady background legislation? We must finish the job.
“So I thank all of you for being here. I particularly thank all the families who have suffered losses for sharing their grief. It’s hard, I know. But their generosity of spirit must move us to be relentless, persistent, and dissatisfied until we get the job done and make the American people safer. So, Sarah, it’s always an honor to be in your presence. She’s formidable. She’s a force of nature. She is not going to relent until we finish the job. And thank heavens we have the leadership of Dan Gross to be planning the strategy and how we go forward. But, most of all, we thank God for all of you, because your voices – nothing’s more eloquent to a Member of Congress than the voice of his or her own constituent. And, when you go in to speak about it and share the stories, I know we will get the job done.
“Thank you all.”
Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks
“As I was listening to my colleagues, I thought it would be important to give you some hope about what is possible now – not after the next election or anything like that. Because, with what Mr. Thompson was saying – Congressman Thompson, our Chairman said, ‘we have 185, possibly 186 by the end of the day.’ That’s a large number of co-sponsors for a gun violence prevention legislation. That’s a large number of people to put their name in advance on a bill – not knowing if it’s ever even going to come up. Three, perhaps four by the end of the day are Republicans. But a large number of Republicans have assured Mr. Thompson, and others of us, that they will be there if the bill comes to the floor.
“So Sarah, our ongoing inspiration for decades – Mr. Schumer was our legislative leader on this on the floor – Sarah and Jim still are our inspiration. I believe that we should still be hopeful, because when we took that vote before, people paid a big political price. Ninety percent was not the public view on the issue at that time. The Speaker of the House lost his seat, from rural Washington state. It’s a big issue in his district, and he had the courage to bring the bill to the floor – Tom Foley. We just had his memorial service, at which people said, ‘this was so important to him.” The Chairman of the Committee, Jack Brooks, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, from Texas – that’s more boots, hat, cigar, gun – brought the bill to the floor, the crime bill to the floor, which had this in it. He lost his seat. Mr. Schumer was saying maybe up to 30 House Members, Democrats, lost their seats for voting for this. To a person, whether it’s the Speaker, whether it was Chairman, or whether it was Members, they came back and said ‘I would do it again, I will do it again.’
“Because nobody’s political career is more important than protecting the American people. Who among us is of such value that we would not say, ‘I’ll take a risk, so that our kids don’t have to take a risk and be in danger?’ So, I think there’s reason to be hopeful, because of Mr. Thompson’s work in the House getting all those co-sponsors. All we need is 20, 30 more, and there are at least 30 more who would vote for it.
“So, what we want is to get people to sign on, or at least say they will support the bill, and to urge the leadership of the House to take up the bill. I believe if the bill were taken up in the House that it would pass, and when it passes the House, some Senators – well-intentioned – would no longer have the excuse: ‘It’s no use my risking my political career because it’s not going any place in the House.’ Let’s prove it. Let’s turn that around. Pass it in the House. Just put the pressure on to take up the bill. Why not? Why not? When 90 percent of the American people want us to finish the job?”