Remarks by Vice President Harris Before Air Force Two Departure
Buffalo, New York
Q Madam Vice President, what was your message to the families?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You know, I met with all the families. And first of all, to lose a loved one unexpectedly and because of such an extreme act of violence and hate, the tragedy of it is beyond description.
And so, first, I expressed our condolences. But also, when we think about what’s been happening — and you’ve heard me say it before — I really do think we need to look at the fact that this year alone, I’m told that we’ve had over 200 mass shootings — over 200 — and we’re barely halfway through the year.
And when we’re looking at an epidemic of hate where people are being targeted just because of who they are, I think we all have to stand back and say, “Wait, enough. Enough is enough. A harm against any one of us is a harm against all of us. No one should be left to fight alone.” And we got to deal with this, and we have to deal with it in a number of ways.
But I went through it even at the church. You look at it — everything from Buffalo to what’s happened to those babies and the teachers being killed in Texas, the funerals — haven’t even really begun in terms of mourning that loss.
We’re looking at — on the heels of Atlanta, just a year ago; Orlando; the Tree of Life.
We have to agree that if we are to be strong as a nation, we must stand strong, identifying our diversity as our unity. And that anyone who is trying to break that down, it’s hurting us as a country and as individuals who should identify as one, as a country, as Americans.
So I think of it in a number of ways. There is the tragedy of the personal loss that each of these families has made. Mrs. Whitfield — the funeral today — what a beautiful woman who lived an extraordinary life.
I met with the other families. There were community leaders. There were — a father of an infant. And then, of course, the President is going to go tomorrow to Texas and be with the families who have lost their babies at a school.
We have to — everybody has got to stand up and agree that this should not be happening in our country and that we should have the courage to do something about it.
On the issue of gun violence, I will say as I said countless times: We are not sitting around waiting to figure out what the solution looks like. You know, we’re not looking for a vaccine. We know what works on this. It includes: Let’s have an assault weapons ban. You know what an assault weapon is? You know how an assault weapon was designed? It was designed for a specific purpose: to kill a lot of human beings quickly. An assault weapon is a weapon of war with no place — no place in a civil society.
Background checks. Why should anyone be able to buy a weapon that can kill other human beings without at least knowing, hey, has that person committed a violent crime before? Are they a threat against themselves or others? That’s just reasonable. It’s just reasonable. We do that, saying you have to have a license to drive a car. You have to be of a certain age to buy, you know, a six-pack.
We are a society that is governed by rules, most of which were designed — those rules — to, at the very height of the purpose, prevent against harm, to promote safety, and to have a common order that we all agree a civilized society should agree to that ensures that there will be safety and that we can prevent chaos.
When we’ve had over 200 mass shootings in our country already and we are barely in June, let’s all agree we got to do something, and it’s within our power to do it. Congress needs to act. And what I know is that we also have to come together as one nation, undivided, standing with each other.