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Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California

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Should Congress require a hearing on gun violence after each moment of silence for victims?

April 20, 2016
In The News

U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) and more than 100 House Democrats want to change the chamber’s rules to require a congressional hearing each time its members stand in silence to recognize gun violence victims.

“This is not about taking away citizens' 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms,” Cardenas said at a news conference Wednesday. “By changing the rules, we are setting a new standard for Congress to act.”

The resolution came 17 years after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where attackers killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 24 others.

Cardenas listed several other well-publicized mass shootings — including the San Bernardino massacre in December 2015 — that have happened since and were recognized by a moment of silence in the House chamber. 

“The list goes on and Congress stands in silence,” Cardenas said. “How have we changed since then? What is different today than when these tragedies occurred? The answer is nothing.”

After the San Bernardino shooting, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) said she wouldn't stand for moments of silence any more unless Congress followed them with action. There were at least a dozen moments of silence in the House to recognize gun violence victims last year.

Cardenas said that after each moment of silence he hears colleagues mutter their frustrations that more isn’t being done.

“Sometimes they can’t even help themselves and they shout out 'let’s do something,' and that’s what inspired me to do this,” he said. “We’re not activists, we shouldn’t have to shout out. We have the will of the voters behind us; we have been sent to Congress and empowered to do the will of the people and yet my colleagues are relegated to just shouting out in frustration, in pain over the fact that this is happening over and over.”

The rule change, which likely faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House, would require the House speaker to call for a committee hearing on a shooting the day after the chamber holds a moment of silence. The chairman of the committee would have 10 days to schedule the hearing, or a majority of committee members could call the hearing themselves.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the highest ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, said it would be a "major" rule change, but an important one.

“How dare we say that we’ll just give this a moment and we’ll go back to business as usual,” she said. “We don’t ever even talk about it.”

Thirty-one other California Democrats co-sponsored the resolution.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) noted that her constituents were killed in the San Bernardino shooting.

“San Bernardino was only one of 372 mass shootings that took place in 2015,” she said at the news conference. “Our constituents deserve more than just a moment of silence… they deserve action.”

Cardenas acknowledged that changing any policy connected to guns is difficult, but said he hopes Republican leaders will at least bring the resolution up for a vote.

“The silence is deafening,” he said. “I don’t think anybody elected anyone to Congress to solely feel for them, they elected us to represent them and to take actions.”