Editor’s Note: In an impassioned plea for action rather than silence, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) during a speech on the House floor this week read the names of the ten people shot and killed last Friday at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas:
Glenda Perkins; Cynthia Tisdale; Kimberly Vaughan; Shana Fisher; Angelique Ramírez; Christian Riley García; Jared Black; Sabika Sheikh; Christopher Jake Stone; and Aaron Kyle McLeod.
Mr. Speaker, those are the ten names of the people killed at Santa Fe High School in Texas on Friday.
Two were teachers. Eight were students. All were violently torn away from their loved ones and their pathways to bright futures way too soon.
As usual, our elected leaders have expressed that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, but we all know by now that more is needed than a moment of silence, because the silence of lawmakers kills.
58 killed in Las Vegas. 27 killed in Newtown, Connecticut. 14 killed in San Bernardino, California. 17 at school in Parkland, Florida. 4 at a Waffle House in Tennessee. 26 at church in Texas. 49 at a nightclub in Florida. 6 at a Cracker Barrel in Michigan. 9 at Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina.
The gunmen – and they were almost all men or boys – had different motives or motivations including crime, racism, terrorism, revenge, and seeking notoriety – which they got.
And they all had access to weapons and bullets that could kill scores of humans in just moments.
For the most part, the only thing the victims had in common was that they were killed by bullets.
The Washington Post reported that the number of people killed in schools in 2018 is almost double the number of servicemen and women killed in our military in both combat and non-combat fatalities.
And this coming weekend, just like clockwork, as America honors fallen service members on Memorial Day, Chicago will see a deadly toll.
52 people were shot over the Memorial Day weekend last year and that was actually down from previous years like 2016 when 71 were shot.
There will probably be no national special reports or wall-to-wall news coverage because when 50 or 75 people of color are shot in an American city over the weekend, it barely makes the news.
Unless the NRA or Fox News use my beloved Chicago and her tough gun laws as a way of giving political cover to politicians – while failing to point out that loopholes and weak gun-laws in Indiana, Virginia, and other states feed illegal guns into my city.
And we should note that the new head of the NRA is someone whose claim to fame is that he lied to Congress about weapon sales to our enemies. And they claim to be the side that is for ‘law and order’?
So, the result of all this is political paralysis, societal paralysis and actual, permanent paralysis as the butcher’s bill of dead and wounded grows and grows.
When I came here in 1993, we had hope and optimism that we could cut crime and reduce the number of guns on our streets. And across the board, we have seen a dramatic decrease in crime in this country.
But despite the drop in crime, all of our efforts to reduce the number of guns on our streets, in our homes, and in our schools and churches have been thwarted by the gun manufacturers.
The assault weapons ban I voted for worked, until it was killed by politics.
The crime-gun bill I wrote would work by reducing the availability and manufacture of the cheap, concealable handguns most-often used in gun crimes.
But it will never get a vote in this House.
It takes good people without guns working with good people who own guns to keep guns out of the hands of people who will use them to kill other people.
We have established a school to coroner pipeline in this country that will persist until the American people arm their politicians to do something about it, but I fear the profit motive of the gun makers and the politicians they own is greater than the will of the American people to take on and tame our runaway love affair with bullets.
Mr. Speaker, it takes good people without guns working with good people who own guns to keep guns out of the hands of people who will use them to kill other people.
It is not that we do not know what works, because we do. Waiting periods, background checks, trigger and gun locks, restrictions on sales of guns can all be effective in reducing suicide, murder, and accidental death by firearms.
We are not lacking the way; we are only lacking the will to overcome a deeply entrenched, highly profitable industry that thrives on fear, mistrust, inequality, racism, misogyny and tribalism.
We cannot afford another moment of silence because silence kills.
What we need is a moment of action to save the American people from killing themselves with American guns and American bullets.
By Luis V. Gutiérrez
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.