WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05), Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10), Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08), Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Rep. Anthony Brown (MD-04), survivors, and advocates for change held a press conference in the U.S. Capitol today to call on the Republican-led Senate to take action on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, legislation passed by the House that requires background checks on all firearm sales. Video of the press conference is available here.
Following the mass shootings this month in Gilroy, CA; El Paso, TX; and Dayton, OH; the violence in Chicago, IL; and amid daily gun violence plaguing communities across America, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to refuse to bring bipartisan comprehensive background check legislation to the Senate Floor for a vote. Passed on a bipartisan vote of 240-190 in the House on February 27, H.R. 8 would require a background check for every firearm purchase, closing loopholes that have allowed domestic abusers and severely mentally ill individuals to obtain dangerous, military-style weapons and use them to commit gun violence.
“We are here today to call on Leader McConnell to stop taking orders from the NRA and start listening to the voices of victims and those whose communities have been impacted by gun violence,” Leader Hoyer said. “We are urging him to call the Senate back and take up H.R. 8 immediately. The House has acted; now the Senate must do so as well, before countless more Americans lose their lives or their loved ones.”
“While we mourn those lost in these all-too-frequent disasters, let’s remember that some cities suffer these tragedies daily. That’s why we need to start with our Background Check Act,” said Congressman Payne.
“For the many Americans who were killed by gun violence yesterday, as Mitch McConnell refused to pass HR 8, it is too late,” said Congressman Beyer. “For the hundred, on average, who will die today, tomorrow, each day next week, time is passing quickly. We could save so many lives by passing this legislation to expand background checks. Mitch McConnell’s refusal to help reduce gun violence in America is one of the great moral failures of our time.”
“Last week a mother came in search of me, she said you must do something. She told me her daughter was starting kindergarten. She couldn’t decide between the backpack her daughter wanted or a bulletproof backpack. Another child that day asked me if she was safe. As children get ready to begin a new school year, they shouldn’t have to think about this. It’s time for the Senate to act on background check legislation. It’s a much needed first step in an overdue conversation,” said Congresswoman Dingell.
"Our nation is faced with an epidemic of gun violence in our communities, and a crisis of leadership in the Republican-controlled Senate. However, states across the country, including Maryland, have made progress in spite of this lack of leadership, banning assault rifles, implementing a red flag law, and strengthening background checks. It's time for Congress to do the same,” said Congressman Brown.
Joining the Members of Congress at today’s press conference were five speakers testifying to the human impact of gun violence and the broad, bipartisan support for H.R. 8 and other gun safety legislation:
- Jaxon O’Mara is a recent graduate of Great Mills High School, in Maryland, who lost her friend, Jaelynn Willey, in a shooting on March 20, 2018. She has been a leader in Maryland of the March for Our Lives student movement, raising the voices of fellow students and young people in support of stronger gun safety measures.
- Greg Jackson is a survivor of gun violence in 2013 and today is a member of the Community Justice Action Fund’s leadership team, a nonprofit organization building power for and with communities of color to end gun violence.
- Dr. Joe Sakran is a trauma surgeon and Director of Emergency General Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. He survived being shot through the neck and nearly killed at age seventeen in 1994 by a stray bullet and has been an activist for gun safety, speaking widely about his experiences as both a victim and a medical professional working to save others’ lives.
- Christian Heyne is the Vice President of Policy at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, whose mother was killed and father wounded in a shooting in 2005. He previously served as Legislative Director at the Campaign to Stop Gun Violence.
- Dr. Wendy Edmonds is the sister of Maryland-resident Sylvia Frasier, who was shot and killed on September 16, 2013 in the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.