House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sought to preempt Republican arguments against new firearm legislation on Thursday, countering claims that video games or a lack of mental health care are driving the gun violence epidemic in the U.S.
Nadler’s comments came as his panel marked up a package of gun bills in the wake of two mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, that killed a combined 31 people — including 10 Black Americans and 19 elementary school students.
Following the massacres, a number of GOP lawmakers have sought to deflect from gun control legislation by claiming that violent entertainment, mental health and other factors led to the recent spate of shootings.
At the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting last week, which occurred just days after the Uvalde elementary school shooting, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “tragedies like the events of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions” and look at “desensitizing the act of murder in video games, chronic isolation, prescription drug and opioid abuse,” among other elements.
Nadler on Thursday sought to refute those ideas.
“Allow me to rebut some of my Republican colleagues’ arguments in advance,” he said.
“Nobody seriously believes that Hollywood or video games are to blame for the epidemic of gun violence in America. Our children watch the same movies and play the same games as children in Canada and England and Japan. But only in the United States do we ask the parents of elementary school children to stand in line so we can match their DNA to the remains of their children, because only the United States is awash in 400 million guns,” he added.
The Judiciary Committee chairman pointed out that other countries also struggled with their mental health systems, but “those countries do not experience the gun violence that we do.”
“You say that these deaths were caused by a lack of mental health care. I agree that we need to do more for those in our communities who may be in crisis, and I hope that you will join me the next time we are asked to fund such initiatives. I expect that many of my Republican colleagues will not,” Nadler said.
Nadler reflected on previous mass shootings, dismissing the claim that it is too soon to take action on gun legislation and that Democrats are “politicizing these tragedies to enact new policies.”
“It has been 23 years since Columbine. Fifteen years since Virginia Tech. Ten years since Sandy Hook. Seven years since Charleston. Four years since Parkland and Santa Fe and [the] Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It has been three years since El Paso. It has been a week since we learned, again, that gun violence can reach any of our children and grandchildren at any time, and that no number of armed guards can guarantee their safety. It has not even been 24 hours since the last mass shooting, and who knows how long until the next one. Too soon, my friends? What the hell are you waiting for?” he asked.
The package lawmakers marked-up on Thursday includes measures to raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, prohibit gun trafficking, require that all guns are traceable, mandate that gun owners store their firearms safely, close the bump-stock loophole and place restrictions on high-capacity magazines.
Nadler on Thursday told reporters that the bill will arrive on the House floor next week “if we have the votes.”