WASHINGTON, D.C. – Exactly one month after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal shared the following letter from her constituent on the House floor:
Video of the floor remarks is available here.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today because we do have a gun violence epidemic in this country, and the time to act is now.
“Exactly one month ago today, we witnessed one of the most horrific mass shootings in our country’s history, and Congress has done nothing. One month later, legislation on bump stocks has stalled. There is a deafening silence from the majority on any responsible actions on this public health crisis. Even though, Mr. Speaker, a majority of Americans — including responsible gun owners — support responsible gun safety legislation. Today, Mr. Speaker, I rise to share a statement written by my constituent, Zach Elmore, who is here with us this morning. Zach’s sister, Alicia Johnston, was shot in Las Vegas. Thankfully, she survived, and this is what he wrote as he sat next to her hospital bed as she recovered:
“My sister was shot in Las Vegas. I’ve never been more afraid, more angry, in my entire life. The problem with shootings around the country is that unless you know someone directly affected, it’s easy to say “what a tragedy!” and move on with your daily life. It’s not so easy when you’re getting ready for bed and one of your sisters calls inconsolably crying to tell you that another one of your sisters has been shot. It’s not so easy when you call your mother and she’s terrified and crying and all you can do is try to calm her down while you figure out how to get to your sister as quickly as possible. It’s not so easy to see your brother-in-law with blood still on his hands from doing whatever he could to keep your sister alive. It’s not so easy to see your sister in a hospital bed, unable to move due to a gunshot wound in her back and staples in her stomach from surgery to check for organ damage. And we’re among the luckiest ones.
“I’m sick and tired of thoughts and prayers. If thoughts and prayers had any effect whatsoever, there would be a lot of people still alive today. All these thoughts and prayers would’ve miraculously pulled bullets out of victims and healed wounds; would’ve stopped these massacres before they started. You know what’s better than thoughts and prayers and lines around the block at blood banks and enormous relief funds for victims of tragedy? Creating a society where we don’t have to do these things many times a year.
“We waited so long to do anything after Columbine that Virginia Tech happened. We still couldn’t talk about it when the Aurora Theater shooting happened. That didn’t change anything and then 20 children were murdered at Sandy Hook. Even that wasn’t enough to promote change when Dylann Roof happened. Still couldn’t talk about it and then San Bernardino happened. We still couldn’t bring ourselves to discuss gun control and then the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened. Lord knows we can’t do anything about guns, and then Las Vegas happened. And we’re still being told that now is not the time, let healing begin, don’t politicize tragedy. But by all means, send “thoughts and prayers to all affected by (insert massacre here)”.
“There is no place in society for any weapon which has the singular purpose to kill people. The man who killed and injured more than any massacre in America’s history broke the mold for who commits mass shootings. He’d have easily passed a background check and psych evaluation. He was affluent and had no known ties to terrorist organizations, but he is certainly a terrorist. The system we have in place allowed him to accumulate dozens of assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition because for all intents and purposes he was not a risk to society.
“Let’s keep in mind, the Second Amendment of the Constitution was written over two hundred years ago when a good gunman might get three shots off a minute with a musket. It’s hard for me to believe the Founding Fathers envisioned a world where one man could or would fire four hundred rounds a minute into a crowd of people. This should not be difficult. How many people have to die before people will apply a little logic to gun laws? Do more children need to die? Does a hospital need to be attacked? What is your limit? Does it have to happen to you or a loved one before you start to think differently about gun laws? The people of this country have so much power. We’ve protested, pressured our Congressmen and women, and we’ve seen that work. Why can’t we do the same to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the insane amount of gun violence in America?
“Excuse me for not being willing to wait, to let healing begin, for not accepting that now is not the time to talk about a major problem in this country. There is never a wrong time to stand up for what you think is right. My sister was shot in Las Vegas in the latest of a devastatingly long line of mass shootings in this country. We’re luckier than fifty-eight people and their families, and likely luckier than many of the over five hundred other people who were injured. If I don’t talk about it, if we don’t truly take steps to effect positive change, everyone reading this will forget it happened because they’ll be sending thoughts and prayers to the victims of the next mass shooting in America.
“And that is the end of the excerpt of his letter. Mr. Speaker, Zach’s family experience illustrates why it’s crucial for us to take a hard look at gun violence policies. Mr. Speaker, I hope, that we will, across the aisle — in a bipartisan fashion — do what is right for the American people and protect families like Zach’s across the country.
“I thank you and I yield back.”