Ranking Member Raskin and Rep. Frost Underscore Real Solutions in the Face of Republican Inaction at Gun Violence Roundtable
Washington, D.C. (November 14, 2023)—Rep. Jamie Raskin, Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Accountability, and Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, held a roundtable to examine the epidemic of gun violence with a panel of advocates, school leaders, policy advocates, and legal experts.
“When we announced this roundtable in the wake of the devastating mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, there had already been 565 mass shootings. 565. Today, there have been 602 mass shootings in America in 2023. This is violence that has devasted our communities, our neighborhoods, our schools, and it crosses all state, political, economic, social lines in the country,” said Ranking Member Raskin in his opening statement.
The roundtable included testimony from Mariah Cooley, Board Member, March of Our Lives; James (J.T.) Timpson, Managing Director, Community Violence Initiatives, Roca, Inc.; Joseph Blocher, Professor of Law, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research, Duke University School of Law; Kelly Sampson, Senior Counsel and Director of Racial Justice, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; and Michelle Kefford, Principal, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Member, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Principal Recovery Network.
Committee Democrats emphasized how the gun violence epidemic is devastating communities and is the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States.
- Ms. Cooley highlighted the devastation of gun violence, that “guns have been the leading cause of death for children and teens for the past three years—surpassing car accidents and, yes, even cancer. And it shows no signs of slowing down. 2023 has become the second worst year for mass killings and the year’s not even over yet.” Ms. Cooley continued, “In 2022, Black children and teens were twenty times as likely to die by guns compared to their white counterparts. And for the first time on record, the gun suicide rate among Black children and teens surpassed the rate among white children and teens.”
- James (J.T.) Timpson recalled roughly fifteen years into his career in community violence intervention (CVI) in Baltimore when his close friend and mentor was killed in the field. He stated that “it was one of the toughest periods of my life to have to actually manage my own trauma as well as to continue to manage the trauma of the people that we were serving in the community.” Mr. Timpson continued, “It’s possible to heal this trauma but we know that the change takes time.”
- Ms. Sampson stated that the “very real threat of gun violence haunts us every day. Survivors are haunted by physical pain and trauma. Family members are haunted by empty chairs and grief. Kindergarteners are haunted by lockdown drills. And everyone who is paying attention is haunted by living with an epidemic that kills more than 40,000 people every year and is the number one killer of our children. Americans are trapped in a real-life horror movie that Congress has the power to fix, yet it continues to play on a loop.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton about the long-term effects of gun violence in her school and community, Ms. Kefford emphasized, “The impacts are so far-reaching and long-lasting. It’s been almost six years since our tragedy and every subsequent mass shooting elicits panic, fear, and trauma in our community.”
Committee Democrats called out Republicans and special interests for obstructing commonsense gun violence prevention solutions.
- In his opening statement, Ranking Member Raskin explained, “The [National Rifle Association] has become a massive lobbying and propaganda organization to advocate against commonsense gun reform in the name of freedom.” He continued, “The reason that they say we can’t have a universal violent criminal background check—endorsed by 90% of the American people—the reason we can’t have a ban on AR-15 assault weapons used against our people in schools, and Walmarts, and churches, and grocery stores, is because they say they’ve got a right to overthrow the government. No, you don’t have a right to overthrow the government in America.”
- In his opening statement, Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost noted, “We’ve got to be clear: organizations like the NRA and alike organizations that say they are an advocacy group for gun owners—it’s a bunch of BS. They are not an advocacy group. They are fronts for the gun lobby. And this issue, much like many other issues, in part [is why] we don’t see good work in the federal government because of corporate greed being valued over the lives of people.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost about solutions to overcome the Republican and Congressional intransigence, Ms. Sampson explained, “There are many things we can do. One of them is what we’re doing right here which is to continue to talk about the problem and talk about it in a multi-faceted way because despite what the gun lobby tries to make people think, gun violence prevention laws are wildly popular with the American people. We see bipartisan support from Republicans, we see it from Democrats, we see it from gun owners and non-gun owners. But what we really need to do is continue to keep the pace up of talking about what it looks like.”
Committee Democrats put forth practical solutions to tackle the gun violence epidemic and save lives.
- Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost stated that “Congress has the ability to support community violence intervention in a big way. The city of Orlando started their CVI program with money from the American Rescue Plan over a year ago. What we’ve seen is gun violence in the city of Orlando has gone down.”
- Rep. Greg Casar stressed, “We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We need to raise the age to buy a gun. We need those universal background checks. Even though after the killings in Uvalde, and in Texas, and across the country Democrats in Congress came together to pass important legislation.” Rep. Casar further stated, “The money, the corporate gun lobby has been what has held so much of this legislation back.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Dan Goldman about possible solutions to address the root causes of gun violence issues, Mr. Timpson explained, “Really, it’s about more resources, more appropriate resources, more readily available resources. I know some places have social workers that go out with police officers, or they have people who have built some trauma recovery centers in certain communities where people can go receive any type of service they need that’s trauma related. Those services being readily available and/or looking at alternative ways to have community work with law enforcement on those types of things would really make a difference.”
- In response to a question from Ranking Member Jamie Raskin about the power of electoral politics in instituting gun reform, Ms. Sampson responded, “When you look at the states, they have been passing so many different kinds of gun laws in a bipartisan manner.” Ms. Sampson continued, “The will is there for the American people.”