Eisenhower Executive Office Building
11:41 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Have a seat, everyone. Good morning. Madam Speaker, thank you so very much.
And, yeah, Josh Seal — you know, well, first of all, we always know we need to speak the names. Because we are talking about people who were loved, who loved.
Josh, I — he signed for me all over the world, actually. And I talked to his family, his wife and his children. And they’re a family that’s actually very committed to public service. His wife runs an organization that is about reaching out to and empowering people who — who need assistance with sign language. So, it’s important we speak those names.
And so, I say welcome. Let me say that, first of all. Welcome to all of you. And thank you for what you do.
As the Speaker said, I have held local, state, and federal office. And so, I have a very good sense of what your lives are like and what you do every day. I know that you are the public face of so much that is happening in your communities. I know that people come up to you at the gas station or the grocery store, talking about these issues in terms of how it impacts real lives.
I know that many of you have held the hands and have hugged and tried to comfort community members and your constituents and people you know who have suffered because of gun violence.
And I therefore know that when we have this conversation and address this crisis that, for everyone here, it is personal. You are individuals who have answered a call to serve. And that requires a lot of personal sacrifice — because you care. And when you care and you have clear eyes, you see a lot. And it can be heavy and hard.
And so, I first and foremost, say again: Thank you for not only being here but for choosing to serve — and choosing, on this subject, to have an extraordinary amount of courage to speak openly and with strength about the need for reasonable gun safety laws.
And that is what we are doing. We are fighting just for what is reasonable and, of course, what is right.
And I think it’s very important that we not, then, in this movement for better policy, for better practice — that we not be deterred. Because we have seen progress.
And, you know, I — let me just, as an aside, share with you — starting last September, this past September, I decided to do a college tour. We named it the “Fight for Our Freedoms” tour.
And I’ll tell you, for a number of reasons that include the fact — I will confess, I love Gen Z. (Laughter.) I love Gen Z. It will be a humbling moment for some of us to realize that anyone who is 18 now was born in 2005. (Laughter.)
But what that means then, for that generation, as an example of all who care about these issues — for them, these issues are lived experience.
And so, at each college — and it was actually for college-age young people. So we’re — universities, colleges, community colleges, and also trade schools.
And at each location, I would ask them, “Please raise your hand if you at any point from kindergarten to 12th grade had to endure an active shooter drill.” The hair on the back of your head would have gone up. The vast majority of the hands go up.
And I would say every time — there’d be press in the room; there’d be older adults in the room — and I’d say, “Please look at this and understand.” Because I do believe that a lot of people who have opinions about these matters do not understand what our children, our young people have been going through.
One student — an elementary school student that I was talking to, literally, on this subject shared with me when we were talking about it, and said to me, “Yeah, I don’t like going to fifth period.” I said, “Why, sweetheart?” “Well, because in that classroom, there’s no closet.”
AUDIENCE: Ooh —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: To hide in, right?
Think about it. Our young people, with all their God-given capacity, are sitting in a classroom, where they should — they should be full of wonder about all of the beauty and excitement about the world and their future. And some part of their brain is sitting there in fear that there might be a shooter breaking into the classroom.
By the way, I do believe that when that generation starts voting in their numbers, we’re going to see an abrupt change in terms of how we’re dealing with issue. (Applause.) I’m certain of it. I’m certain of it.
So, until then, it is our responsibility — our chosen responsibility; dare I say, our duty — to do the work of laying the path to get where we need to go.
And so, the work that you all have been doing this morning of collaboration and convening, of also just simply reminding yourself that when you’re in the state where you come from — and I know some of the states you come from — (laughter) — reminding yourself, hopefully today and this morning, that you’re not alone and you’re not in it alone.
And there are best practices to be shared, including not only what you will write in terms of proposing legislation but how you will think about organizing, how you will think about messaging, how you will think about empowering and uplifting. Hopefully, that is part of what you will come away from this session having a better sense of — and just reaffirming your own work in that regard.
And we plan on having — I think that folks might have said — Stef and others might have said that we have some homework for you, which is: Before our next convening — which we plan to have at the end of January, I believe; I think it’s going to be virtual — and we’d like to ask you to do a few things that are in furtherance of some of the discussions that you’ve had today.
And so, in particular, to strategize and share with each other and then to bring back to us some of your best ideas and your state-specific strategies for dealing with community violence prevention, secure storage, and, for those who do not have it, a state assa- — assault weapons ban.
And on those points, I think we all know, the chal- — we’re up against real challenges. We’re up against some who would suggest a false choice, that is that you are either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.
When I — I’ll speak for myself. I am absolutely in favor of the Second Amendment. And I am also in favor of an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, red flag laws. (Applause.)
It’s just reasonable that you might want to know
before someone can buy a lethal weapon if they’ve been found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. You just might want to know. It’s just reasonable — an assault weapons ban.
Because as we all know, it is a weapon that was designed to kill a lot of human beings quickly. It’s a weapon of war. It has no place on the streets of a civil society.
So, the work that I would ask that we do, as a follow-up to this convening, is to continue to strategize and refine, where that is appropriate, how we are thinking about these issues in a way that moves the needle toward progress.
And I’ll end with a couple points.
You know, I — I fear that something has been taking hold in our country in the last many years, which is actually, I think, a very perverse perspective on what strength in a leader looks like: the suggestion that the measure of strength is based on who you beat down instead of who you lift up.
We all know. The true meas- — I — sometimes I talk with young people, and I say, “Hold up your hand. Let me see that muscle. You know how strong you are? Lift up somebody else. You’ll see how strong you are.”
The true measure of strength — the true measure of the strength of character of a leader being to have some level of curiosity, concern, and care for the suffering of other people. And then having as one’s personal feeling of, yes, duty and responsibility to alleviate that suffering — to address it and alleviate it.
And I end with that to then say: The work that you are each doing is proof of the strength of the character of your leadership. It is proof of the measure of your strength. Because our collective desire to end the fact that gun violence is the number one killer of children in America, to end the fact that one in five Americans has a family member that was killed by gun violence — that quest is truly about the strength of who you are as leaders.
And so, keep it up. Keep it going. I’ll see you in your state sometime soon, I’m sure. (Laughter.)
And have the rest of a good day and — and a holiday season. And please get some rest, because we got a lot of work to do in the new year.
Thank you, all. (Applause.)
END 11:52 A.M. EST