“On this second anniversary, those who survived the Route 91 massacre are again struggling with the lasting scars of body and mind they sustained that night.”
“Today’s summit is an extraordinary opportunity to bring together law enforcement, advocacy groups, survivors, authorities on extremists, and others to dig into the causes of and solutions to gun violence and mass shootings.”
“Together, let’s seize on this chance to learn from one another and find new approaches to one of the most serious problems facing Americans today.”
Las Vegas, Nev. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks at a conference on mass shootings organized by Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, a nonpartisan group of leading prosecutors focused on preventing gun violence. In her remarks, the Senator addressed the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Route 91 massacre, the potential for federal action on gun violence prevention legislation and highlighted Nevada’s recent steps to protect citizens from gun violence. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
Good afternoon. I’m glad to be joining you here today.
I want you to know I appreciate the hard work that you do—not only to prosecute gun violence after it happens, but to prevent it.
I want to thank the Prosecutors Against Gun Violence co-founders—Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan DA, and Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles City Attorney. Your organization is such an important force for change.
And I also want to thank Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, who is hosting this critical summit, as well as everyone else who helped put it together.
As all of you know, this week marks the second anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre here in my home town.
This is a somber and tragic anniversary for me and for all Nevadans.
Two years ago, like many other young people, my niece was at the Route 91 festival, relaxing and enjoying the music with friends.
Our family was lucky. She came home that night.
Many, many others did not. And their families are caught up this week in fresh grief over the loss of their loved ones.
On this second anniversary, those who survived the Route 91 massacre are again struggling with the lasting scars of body and mind they sustained that night.
I will never forget sitting with families at the Reunification Center here in Las Vegas—parents, uncles, aunts, and siblings—who were waiting to find out what had happened to their loved ones.
Can you imagine? Wanting so desperately to know if your sister or son is alive, but at the same time being afraid to hear the news?
No family in America wants to go through that. It’s what so many of us fear.
And it’s why people like you are so committed to taking action.
Today’s summit is an extraordinary opportunity to bring together law enforcement, advocacy groups, survivors, authorities on extremists, and others to dig into the causes of and solutions to gun violence and mass shootings.
Together, let’s seize on this chance to learn from one another and find new approaches to one of the most serious problems facing Americans today.
You know as well as I do that gun violence is an epidemic in our country–in 2017 alone we had almost 40,000 gun-related deaths.
Yet many would have us believe that we are helpless in the face of these overwhelming statistics.
You know, it’s crazy to me. I’m a proud product of the Clark County school system. A public school kid. I never had to worry about someone shooting up my classroom when I was a child.
Yet some of my colleagues, when talking about preventing gun violence, only want to talk about putting more guns in schools while doing nothing about the ones on our streets.
Having come from law enforcement, I’ll tell you right now that we never like being told we can’t take action to protect our communities.
There is so much we can do to promote responsible gun ownership and reduce the number of mass shootings in this country. All of it is in line with the rights of gun owners, and all of it would save lives.
Look at the State of Nevada: we’re a purple state with a proud gun owning tradition. In my own family, we have responsible gun owners. And look at what Nevada has done over the last three years alone.
Even before the Route 91 Festival attack, the people of this state voted for a ballot initiative to close the loophole that allows private sellers to sell guns without doing a background check first.
This past spring, Governor Sisolak signed a bill to put that ballot initiative into effect. In July, the Governor signed another bill to ban bump stocks, which were used at the Route 91 massacre.
Nevada also passed its first bill to create extreme risk protection orders. So Nevadans know we can take action to reduce gun violence.
It’s past time for the federal government to do the same.
There’s significant support at the federal level for action on so-called “red flag” laws that would temporarily restrict access to guns for those at elevated risk of harming themselves or others.
The bill I’m cosponsoring, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, would give grants to states to develop laws that let family or friends raise concerns about loved ones in crisis. The bill also has important due process requirements.
We also have to look at combatting the growing threat of home-grown extremist groups. I’m cosponsoring the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to help federal and local law enforcement in their ongoing efforts to identify and stop the threats from white supremacists and other violent extremists right here at home.
Another thing I want to see us do is to address things like bump stocks and high capacity magazines at the federal level. You know, the NRA likes to say that a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy.
But that ignores the reality of gun violence in America today, where the bad guys are outgunning the good guys.
I’m glad that at minimum, the ATF has banned bump stocks. But a regulatory decision like that isn’t enough.
We need to make sure that a bump stock ban won’t be repealed in future, which is why I believe Congress should make it law.
I’m also a cosponsor of the Keep America Safe Act, which would ban the high-capacity magazines that fire dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds.
I know there are other proposals for commonsense policies that can make a difference on gun violence. And we need to really look at these and get the data to figure out which would be most effective.
That’s why I’ve consistently supported efforts to allow the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence, looking at it through the same public health lens we use to address any other leading cause of injury and death.
We shouldn’t be scared of the science. Let’s get more of our most talented minds on this. We can’t make policy in the dark.
Finally, along with my Democratic colleagues, I have been pushing hard for progress on background checks. I’m a cosponsor of the Background Check Expansion Act, which would close the loophole on background checks for private gun sales and online transactions.
This legislation has already passed in the House of Representatives, more than 200 days ago. The House supports it, more than 40 Democratic Senators support it, and of course, your organization supports it.
But most importantly, the American people support it—by overwhelming margins. 9 out of 10 Americans want us to make sure there are universal background checks.
So I’m doing all I can to pass this law that virtually everyone agrees is just common sense.
Yet the discussion in Washington is so disconnected from reality. It’s all partisan politics, when we should be acting in a bipartisan way. There are steps we can take, steps that you have long advocated for, to change the story of gun violence in America.
That’s why what you’re doing here today matters. I want to thank you again for taking the time to get together, to learn from one another, and to work for change.
Lives depend on the work you are doing here. Thank you so much for the hard work you do every day, but especially here today.