Congressional Black Caucusby Representative Yvette D. Clarke
Posted on 2016-01-11
CLARKE of New York. Let me first start by thanking my brother
from the neighboring district in Brooklyn, New York (Mr. Jeffries),
alongside my sister from Ohio, Mrs. Joyce Beatty, for their leadership
in our Congressional Black Caucus Special Order hour, discussing gun
violence and gun safety measures.
Let me also commend the Honorable Robin Kelly of Illinois for her leadership in doing the work that she is doing not only with our Health Braintrust, but by being an outspoken and forceful advocate for the end to gun violence not only for her district in Chicago, Illinois, but for all communities across this Nation.
Madam Speaker, gun violence in the United States has reached epic proportions in the 21st century. The death, the trauma, the devastation that we are witnessing can no longer be tolerated. Congress must act now.
Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence and millions more have been maimed by the reckless and unlawful discharging of firearms.
I applaud President Barack Obama for taking this historic executive action to address gun violence in our Nation. These actions will save lives and will make America a safer place. The President's actions will strengthen lifesaving background checks, improve mental health services, and expand smart gun technology.
We have all that we need in the United States to observe the Second Amendment rights of Americans and, at the same time, to take our Nation into the 21st century with responsible gun ownership that leaves little room for the illegal gun activity that we see taking place in terms of gun trafficking, in terms of the use of deadly arms in the hands of those who are unlicensed to hold them.
As it relates to background checks, the proposals focus on new background check requirements that will enhance the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the NICS, and the greater education and enforcement efforts of existing laws at the State level.
Specifically, it directs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to require any business that engages in the sale of guns to obtain a Federal license to do so and to conduct background checks.
It calls for the increased funding for the ATF in the hiring of 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce existing gun laws, and it requires the ATF to issue a rule requiring background checks for the purchasers who purchase certain dangerous firearms and other items through a trust, a corporation, or other legal entity. It encourages greater communication between Federal and State authorities on criminal history information.
What could be wrong with that? That is within the boundary of our laws, within our constitutional rights, and it makes our Nation safer.
I come to this floor today as one who considers herself to be a victim of gun violence. We need to confront this right away because, for many in our communities, it is not only those who have been physically harmed by gun violence, but those who have been traumatized by being a witness to gun violence.
I had the unfortunate privilege, if you will, of being in the Council Chambers of the New York City's City Council when my colleague, the Honorable James E. Davis, was gunned down before all of his colleagues--workplace domestic terrorism.
That incident has been with me from that day forward. To this day, at a moment's notice, I can recall the trauma of that day, what it meant to see my colleague's life taken from him and to hear the gunplay that took place in the New York City Council's chambers.
I am not alone. There are millions of Americans who are witnesses to gun violence or who may have been maimed by gun violence and who did not necessarily die as a result of it, but whose lives have been changed dramatically.
We should not have another generation of Americans who can speak to the unspeakable horror of what it is to either be impacted directly in the loss of a loved one or to be the families who have to recount the times when they have had to be at the hospital with someone who is trying to recover from being gunned down.
It is our obligation, our responsibility, as lawmakers for this Nation to get this right for future generations.
So I applaud President Obama for doing what he could do within the parameters of his authority. It is now time for the United States House to do its job.