August 14, 2018

Hoyer Speaks to House About Gun Violence

Gun Violence

On May 9, 2018, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) spoke on the House floor and read excerpts from speeches written by students who have spoken out against gun violence and urged Congress to take action. Below are a link to the video and transcript of his remarks.

The full remarks can be seen here and read below.

“Mr. Speaker, on March 24, I was in Morristown, New Jersey, with former Assistant US Attorney Mikie Sherrill, where we attended the March For Our Lives. The March For Our Lives was organized by students around the country to speak out against gun violence and call for action in Congress to strengthen our gun laws.

“This march came just days after a deadly shooting at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County in my district. And it came in the wake of horrific incidents of mass gun violence at a school in Parkland, Florida, and at places of worship [and] entertainment, and even public streets across the country.

“Congress can and should act. Nine in ten Americans – 90 percent of our fellow citizens – believe we ought to do so. We have the ability right now to strengthen background checks and ban the kinds of assault weapons that make our communities unsafe. Law enforcement wants us to get this done. So do parents. So do teachers.

“In Morristown, we heard directly from students, nine of whom spoke at the march that Ms. Sherrill and I attended. I was moved by their words. Because they are too long to insert here together, Mr. Speaker, I’ll be submitting these students’ speeches individually into the Congressional Record in the coming days. But today, let me just share with you some excerpts from each of them that capture the spirit of the march and the fears and hopes of these young Americans.

“One student, Bella Bhimani, summed it up very well. She said this: ‘All we want is to make the world safer, which is something I think everyone can agree on.’ Would that that were true, Mr. Speaker.

“Another, Caitlyn Dempsey, said this: ‘We have been learning that actions speak louder than words since kindergarten. So we walked out. So we’ve written our congressmen. So we planned this march.’ They took action.

“Senior Isabella Bosrock from West Morris Mendham High School lamented: ‘It is horrible that as adolescents we have become used to the idea that gun violence is a method of dealing with our problems.’

“Another student, Mia Paone, a sophomore at Chatham High School, declared: ‘I am not old enough to vote yet, but I am old enough to speak out against gun violence.’ She concluded: ‘I will not be silent.’

“Nile Burch, a student at Morristown High School, shared his hope that: ‘Piece by piece, we will inspire other students to gain the courage to stand up for what they believe in.’ What a lesson for all of us.

“Luna Aguilar declared: ‘We, the youth, the future of our country, are deciding – right here, right now – that our lives are worth more than the right to own an assault weapon!’

“One of the students, Benjamin Douglas, spoke about how he rides with Team 26, a group of cyclists who ride in memory of the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School – where so many children and teachers lost their lives – and stop along the way to raise awareness of gun violence. He said this: ‘We must continue to organize these events and never stop making noise until our representatives get it.’

“Raniya Madhi, a junior at Ridge High School, spoke about how many students now live in fear. How tragic. She told us this: ‘Most of us are just teenagers. We should be worrying about doing well on our AP tests and finals at the end of the year, not about being shot by someone who can enter our school.’ What parent is not terrified at that possibility?

“Finally, Danilo Lopez, a junior at Dover High School, chose instead of delivering remarks simply to read aloud the names of the victims of the recent Parkland, Florida shooting. When he concluded, he expressed what we were all feeling by saying: ‘Let us hope and pray that they are in a better place – and we will always remember.’

“Let me suggest, Mr. Speaker, remembering is not enough. Action is required. We stand on this Floor and have a moment of silence for those we lost. We’re sad for them, for their families, and, yes, for our country. But a moment of silence is not enough. Action is required to ensure that future moments of silence will not be necessary.

“The nine student speakers in Morristown, Mr. Speaker, like those across the country that day, gave voice to the millions who are scared but determined to see things change. These speeches represent a snapshot of what Americans heard on March 24 at the nationwide March For Our Lives. I hope my colleagues will read these extraordinarily poised and thoughtful students’ [remarks] and what they had to say.

“I hope we can listen to their fears and their hopes and come together to take action. That’s what they want us to do. That is our responsibility. That’s what we ought to do.”

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For more information about House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, visit his Leader Page.

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