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Barbara L.
Democrat CA 13

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  • Congressional Black Caucus

    by Representative Barbara Lee

    Posted on 2016-01-11

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    LEE. First, let me thank the gentleman from New York for those very kind remarks. But also I want to thank you and Congresswoman Beatty for organizing this very important Special Order and for your tremendous leadership, Congressman Jeffries and Congresswoman Beatty, on ensuring public safety.

    Your leadership, both Congresswoman Beatty and Congressman [[Page H269]] Jeffries, has been bold, it has been visionary, not just as the result of the very recent tragedies but for many, many years even before both of you came to Congress. So it is an honor serving with both of you in this body. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak this evening.

    Also, I want to just thank Congresswoman Robin Kelly, who is the vice chair on the Gun Violence Task Force. She also chairs the CBC's Health Braintrust.

    I thank you for your tireless work to ensure that gun violence is treated as a public health problem, which it is.

    Madam Speaker, I rise this evening with my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus to call on Congress to do something--to do something--about the epidemic of gun violence that is harming our communities.

    Since the start of the year--just 11 days ago--nine of my constituents have already become victims of gun violence, including an elementary school teacher and an innocent mother pushing her child in a stroller. Just this weekend alone my community suffered three gun homicides. My thoughts are with the victims' family at this very terribly difficult time. We have to do something. Enough is enough.

    Congress can and must do more to stop this senseless violence. Whether it is Charleston, Oak Creek, Sandy Hook, the streets of Oakland or wherever, too many people have already lost their lives, too many families have buried loved ones, and too many lives have been changed forever because of catastrophic injuries as a result of gun violence.

    Madam Speaker, now is the time for action. Our constituents are demanding action. The country is demanding action. I have received hundreds of calls and emails from my constituents, and I know other Members are also hearing from their constituents. They are calling for action as well.

    Earlier today in my own District, Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElehany buried her grandson, 17-year-old Torian Hughes, who was shot and killed during a robbery just days before Christmas. This has been a very difficult period for Council Member McElehany and her family. So in addition to our prayers not only for my council member's family, but for all of those in our country who have been victims of gun violence, we must do something. We must do something in all of their memory.

    Let me be clear. Congress can no longer ignore the massive toll that this epidemic is having on our constituents, their families, and communities. Last week we joined with our colleagues and millions of Americans in applauding President Obama's actions to reduce gun violence in our Nation. Thanks to the President's leadership, there will be more background checks, better enforcement of existing gun laws, improved mental health services, and new research on how to end this epidemic of gun violence.

    But more action is needed to stop the more than 30,000 gun deaths that occur in our Nation each and every year. Congress must pass commonsense gun reform, like closing the gun show loophole, bipartisan measures that are supported by the vast majority of Americans and gun owners. Congress must also fund the expansion of mental health services.

    But this should not be an excuse, of course, to do nothing on gun safety. We have got to provide the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives the resources it needs to enforce our Nation's gun laws.

    As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have fought along with my colleagues to get these vital public safety resources in the appropriations bills which keep our communities safe. We must also end the extreme data restrictions that restrict law enforcement's ability to protect public safety and prevent policymakers from addressing gun violence as a public health issue.

    That is why I introduced last year H.R. 1449, the Tiahrt Restrictions Repeal Act, which would repeal the data restrictions on gun sales and background checks. These data restrictions are commonly called the Tiahrt restrictions. They prevent data on gun background checks from being released to the public.

    These provisions currently impede public safety by requiring the National Criminal Background Check System records to be destroyed--mind you, destroyed--within 24 hours, prohibiting the ATF from requiring licensed dealers to conduct annual inventory checks to detect lost or stolen firearms and restricting local and State law enforcement from using trace data to fully investigate corrupt dealers and traffickers.

    This is outrageous. We have got to restrict and repeal these Tiahrt amendments right away. It will help tackle the bad apple gun dealers who provide dangerous weapons to criminals. It is estimated that just 5 percent of sellers supply the weapons used in nearly 90 percent of gun crimes. The Tiahrt restrictions block access to vital data that lawmakers, law enforcement, and Federal agencies need to tackle gun violence in our community.

    Of course, many of us are proud to support Congresswoman Kelly's bill, which would allow the Surgeon General to study gun violence as a public health issue and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate firearms.

    Madam Speaker, the time for action is now. Let's start listening to the American people and insist that Congress do something. It is really disingenuous to criticize the President for issuing commonsense gun safety measures when we have been trying for years in this body--for years--to get these sensible bills passed. The Speaker should allow these and many other bills to come to the floor so that Congress can act. No more excuses.

    We should support Congressman Thompson's proposal to establish the select committee on gun violence. The Speaker should do this now. So we can't continue to really allow the misinformation to get out about Congress. We need to do our job. We have been trying, many of us, the Congressional Black Caucus and others, especially Democrats, for many years to try to get the Speaker to bring these bills to the floor.

    So what did the President do? He had to do something. But no more excuses. Congress needs to act. So I thank Congresswoman Beatty and Congressman Jeffries for this very important Special Order hour and for your tremendous leadership.

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