(House of Representatives - July 07, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 109 (Thursday, July 7, 2016)]
[Page H4474]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Washington (Mr. McDermott) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, during my 28 years representing Seattle 
in the Congress, there have, unfortunately, been several mass shootings 
in my district, including one in 2006 at the Jewish Community Center 
and another one in 2014 at Seattle Pacific University. I know the pain 
and the frustration that members of the delegation from central Florida 
are feeling 3 weeks after the shooting in Orlando.
  As a psychiatrist, I know and understand the trauma that these types 
of violent events inflict on individuals and communities. As someone 
who was around Congress in 1994 when the first assault weapons ban was 
passed, and in 2004 when it expired without action, I thought it would 
be useful to talk for a few minutes today about the history of that ban 
and how Congress capitulated to the gun lobby and allowed weapons 
designed for killing to flood our communities.
  Congress began consideration of an assault weapons ban after two mass 
shootings in California. In January, in 1989, a disturbed man with a 
long criminal history walked into the Cleveland Elementary School in 
Stockton, California, and fired 106 rounds in 3 minutes from his 
semiautomatic rifle, killing 5 children and wounding 32. Nothing 
happened. It is no surprise that we have the same thing happen in 
Connecticut and nothing happens.
  Four years later, in 1993, a failed businessman opened fire in the 
Pettit & Martin law firm in San Francisco with a pair of semiautomatic 
pistols, shooting hollow point ammunition.

                              {time}  1030

  The predictable public outcry and strong support for an assault 
weapons ban following these shootings led Senator Dianne Feinstein to 
put forward legislation that would ban semiautomatic weapons. In an 
unprecedented show of bipartisan support, former Presidents Jimmy 
Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford joined together to publicly urge 
Congress to ``listen to the American public and to the law enforcement 
community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these 
  A ban on assault weapons eventually passed the Congress in 1994 as a 
part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. However, in 
order to get that legislation through the House, a costly consensus was 
made to gun rights supporters and the NRA that allowed the ban to 
sunset or expire after 10 years. So, despite the importance of the 
assault weapon ban, it was allowed to expire.
  From 2003-2008, Senator Feinstein led numerous efforts to reauthorize 
the ban, but not a single bill left her committee. We had the same here 
in the House. Carolyn McCarthy made the plea over and over again. Her 
husband and son died on a Long Island Railroad train from a guy who 
came into the train and shot up the aisle and killed them. One hundred 
four people were gunned down during this time period in mass shootings, 
and all Congress did was to send a message that weapons designed for 
use in the theater of war were acceptable for use on our streets.
  While I certainly do not want to minimize the loss of lives, I find 
it important to point out that Congress felt compelled to act on an 
assault weapons ban in 1994, following two shootings that killed a 
combined total of 13 people. For some reason, this body can't seem to 
summon the courage to act after 27 are killed in Connecticut, 24 in San 
Bernardino, 9 in Oregon, 12 in Colorado, and 49 in Orlando. And I could 
go on and on and on for my entire speech.
  The question you have to ask is: Have we become so numb to the pain 
of mass shootings that, no matter how many innocent people are gunned 
down, we won't find the will to act? Has the NRA desensitized my 
Republican colleagues so much that the slaughter of children in a 
kindergarten doesn't even result in a single vote on the floor, a 
denial to bring the issue out here and debate it in public?
  What is the price that the American people must pay before 
Republicans quit this obstruction? 100 killed? 200? Fifty doesn't seem 
to hit threshold.
  I understand reinstating the assault weapons ban will be tough, but, 
Mr. Speaker, we must have that debate if we are going to have a society 
in which we all feel safe.