Chairman Nadler Opening Statement for Hearing on Preventing Gun Violence in America
Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement during the hearing entitled, “Preventing Gun Violence: A Call to Action”:
“The epidemic of gun violence in this country is a national crisis and an international embarrassment. In 2017, nearly 40,000 Americans lost their lives because of guns. In fact, every day in America, on average, 34 people are murdered with a firearm, and more than 183 people are injured in an attack. But while no other country in the industrialized world would tolerate such statistics—in fact, gun deaths in most of those countries barely crack triple digits annually—in the United States it is accepted as a grim reality.
“By comparison, in 2011, the United Kingdom had only 146 deaths due to gun violence; Denmark had 71; Portugal had 142; and Japan had just 30 deaths. But last year, in the United States, almost 40,000.
“A 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that, compared to 22 other high-income countries, the gun-related murder rate in the United States was 25 times higher. The common factor in all of these other countries is that they have stronger gun laws. Our country, however, is awash in guns, and we have the shameful death toll to show for it.
“Despite the obvious need to address the scourge of gun violence, Congress, for too long, has done virtually nothing. But now, we begin a new chapter.
“Today, we will hear from a broad array of witnesses, representing diverse perspectives on the issue of gun violence. They will help educate us on the scope of the problem, and they will inform our consideration of various legislative options, so that we may—at last—take real action to address this crisis.
“As we conduct this hearing today, we are reminded that one year ago next week, 17 students and staff were shot to death, and 17 others were injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This horrific incident was just one in an ever-increasing series of mass shootings that have shocked the nation in recent years.
“But mass shootings are just one way in which the problem of gun violence is manifested in our nation. Every day, guns are used in suicides, domestic violence incidents, gang violence, and in so many other tragedies.
“Gun violence impacts all of our communities: rural, urban, and suburban. And no place is immune from its reach, including our homes, our streets, our schools, and even our places of worship.
“Clearly, we must change our approach to combatting gun violence. As challenging as this problem is, however, we do have the ability to address it, and to make our citizens safer. What we have lacked in recent years, is the will.
“We should remember that the Second Amendment does not prevent the government from enacting legislation to prevent gun violence. As even Justice Scalia acknowledged in his 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller upholding an individual’s right to possess a firearm, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.’
“While Congress has done almost nothing in recent years to address gun violence, citizens across the country have been organizing and demanding action. As a result, several states have strengthened their gun laws.
“I am disappointed that in his lengthy State of the Union address, President Trump did not see fit to even mention the need to protect our citizens against gun violence. But, it is evident from the energy and the crowd in this room, as well as the millions of people across the country fighting for sensible gun safety laws, that the public is demanding national legislation too.
“I am particularly heartened by the mobilization of so many students and young people, from diverse backgrounds and from every part of our nation, who are now at the forefront of this effort. They join mothers and fathers in calling on us to do more to create a future in which children do not fear being shot in school, or on their streets.
“We have also seen many in our medical community adding their voices to the movement—shocked at how often they must treat gunshot victims, devastated by the need to console the families of those who lost their lives to gun violence, and stunned by Congress’s failure to address this problem.
“It is now time for Congress to answer these demands, and that is why we are holding this hearing today. We have a large panel of witnesses, and we wish we could have included even more people who wanted to testify, including current Members of Congress who have worked very hard on this issue in recent years. Today, however, is just the beginning of our discussion of these issues, and I hope to hear from many other people as the Committee continues its work on this important topic.
“I want to note that we have with us in the audience today several survivors of gun violence, as well as family members of those whose lives were lost to gun violence. We thank you all for your courage, and for attending today.
“For too long, Congress has ignored the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country. After a particularly heinous mass shooting, we sometimes pause to offer a moment of silence to honor the victims. But we do not need another moment of silence. We need a moment of action. Today’s hearing is the first step towards that goal.”