Press Releases

Beyer Remarks From Parkland Vigil In Falls Church

f t # e
Washington, February 20, 2018 | comments

Rep. Don Beyer gave the following remarks last night at the vigil for victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting held in Falls Church at George Mason High School. Video is available here, courtesy of Blue Virginia.

“Thank you for showing up on a cold, gray February holiday afternoon.  Change is only driven by the people who show up.  And we must, must deal with the prevalence of gun violence in this country.

Let me give you some statistics.  In 2016, more than 39,000 Americans were killed by guns: 96 Americans a day, 7 of them children.  Every month, 50 women are killed by their husbands or their boyfriends. And last year, more than 23,000 Americans took their own life with a gun. 

Do the math.  Each one of us is expected to live at least 80 years, right?  That means 3 million Americans will die by gun in our lifetimes. That’s 5 times all the combat deaths in every U.S. war put together. That’s more than the population of 19 different states. 

Yet, we know what do.  We keep hearing this is an impossible, unsolvable problem.  I lived in Switzerland for 4 years.  The rest of the world has this figured out, Germany, UK, France, Switzerland, etc. I love the Onion headline that says quote “’No way to prevent this’, says the only nation where this regularly happens’. 

And my generation grew up doing the drills, where we’d hide under the desk in case the Soviet Union threw nuclear weapons at us.  Of course, that never happened. This generation has to drill for something that happens every few days, where the librarian has to count the number of doors in and out of their library. It’s completely insane that we accommodate this gun slaughter. 

I’m going to ask you to keep your eye on a bill to create something called a Gun Violence Restraining Order. When people are in a crisis, when they’re a danger to themselves and others, families and law enforcement should be able to put them on the background check list. They could have done that with Nikolas Cruz, they could have done that with Cho at Virginia Tech.  They could have done that with the young man at Alla Vista. When the warning signs go unheeded, that’s when we get in deep trouble.  And there are many, many more ideas: closing the gun show loophole, banning weapons of war, studying gun violence at the CDC. 

None of these would take away a citizen’s right to own a gun.  None of these would violate the 2nd Amendment.  And all of these are supported by a majority of the American public.  So why haven’t we done a single one of these things?  Well, we have to look to the elected leaders who refuse to let anything out of committee and refuse to allow a vote on the floor of the Senate or the House. Thoughts and prayers are meaningless.  The passive acceptance of gun death is wrong, it is sinful, and it is express complicity in these senseless deaths. 

The people in charge think they can just wait this out and not have to do anything.  It’ll be just like Orlando or Las Vegas or Sandy Hook.  After Las Vegas, they couldn’t even ban bump stocks.  Who among us needs a bump stock? You know, I keep wondering, because I serve with a lot of these people, how does somebody like Paul Ryan go to bed at night with images of the children, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, these bodies and not have it haunt his dreams? I promise you, it haunts my dreams.  It sure haunts everybody here. 

When the NRA talks about guns, they talk about freedom.  Well let’s push back.  What about the freedom to go to school without having to worry?  When the NRA talks about guns, they talk about the sacred 2nd Amendment.  Well I thought one of the parents in Parkland put it best.  He said, ‘What makes the 2nd Amendment more sacred than the life of my child?’

A professor at Georgetown 4 years ago wrote a book on paradigm shift.  He coined the phrase.  He pointed out that all through history when there’s paradigm shift, it’s never the old people that do the changing. But when Galileo decided the Earth goes around the Sun, he had to wait till the old scientists died. We’ve found in recent years it was the young people that gave us marriage equality in America. 

We need to wake up the political leaders in all of us to make this happen.  I just want to end with the last line of my favorite Ba’hai prayer.  It simply says, ‘With eagerness and patience, with hope and gratitude, I bend to the task of the hour.’  This is the task of our hour.”

f t # e