Statement ● Human and Civil Rights
For Immediate Release: 
March 21, 2018
Contact Info: 
Mariel Saez 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today on the shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland's Fifth District yesterday. He also recognized the students who participated in the National School Walkout last week and rallied at Capitol Hill to call on Congress to end gun violence. Below is a video and transcript of his remarks:

Click here to watch the full remarks.
“Mr. Speaker, I am saddened and angered that a high school in my district, Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County, was the site of most recent school shooting, of which there have been 17 just since the beginning of this year. Two students were injured; the gunman, also a student, was killed; and an entire community of parents, students, teachers and faculty has been shaken by this violence.

“If it had not been for the courage and quick action of the school resource officer, Blaine Gaskill, and local law enforcement, the casualties might have been far, far greater. Blaine Gaskill was a hero; as were the teachers, students, and other school personnel. Tim Cameron, the Sheriff of St. Mary's County, and the Sheriff's Department of which Blaine Gaskill was a member, responded exactly as they had practiced; efficient and effective and caring.

“Kathy O’Brien, who heads up a place called Walden in our county and Southern Maryland, was on-site just within an hour dealing with the crisis and the mental health challenges caused.

“Principal Jake Heibel made sure the school responded effectively. Superintendent of [St. Mary’s County Public] Schools, Dr. Smith, had made sure that the school would act in a way that was appropriate. We thank all of them.

“But, Mr. Speaker, our nation is suffering from a crisis of gun violence. It has affected schools, places of worship, entertainment venues, city streets, and other places where a lot of people congregate. No other industrialized society or nation faces such a crisis; and that's because in America our laws allow almost anybody to access dangerous firearms almost no questions asked.

“Furthermore, we allow the sale of assault rifles of the kind used by soldiers in the battlefield, designed to kill a lot of people quickly. In this instance, it was a handgun; a glock. I do not know the capacity of the magazine that was used, but it was not an assault rifle.

“This Republican-led Congress, Mr. Speaker, has chosen to follow the lead of the NRA and do nothing of substance. We did pass a bill the other day that gave schools some help, some grant money to ensure the safety of their schools. That was appropriate to do, but they could do that now on their own. We will help, that's good, but it does not address the real problem. Perhaps that was the point.

“American students, however, Mr. Speaker, won't have it. I had the opportunity last Wednesday to stand with thousands of students who walked out of their schools and walked into democracy and marched to the Capitol to call for action against gun violence. These young people displayed the best of America, using their voices and their actions to promote a just cause and a worthy effort to make our union more perfect. The other Members and I who joined these young Americans could see that they do not take this and other national challenges lightly. Indeed, they had much to say about the future they want for our country and for the role they want to play to shape it.

“One of the students, Mr. Speaker, from Maryland, Matt Post, spoke extraordinarily eloquently. I would like to enter his remarks in the [Congressional] Record, and I ask unanimous consent to include those remarks in the Record.

“I’m not going to read the remarks in its entirety, but I do want to highlight one thing Matt had to say, which I thought so profound. He concluded his remarks by saying that, and I quote, ‘the right to own an assault rifle does not outweigh my right to live.’ His right to live is guaranteed by the Constitution, as well.

“There were many others like Matt, Mr. Speaker, other student leaders from our area, who stood up and spoke out and roused their peers to be engaged. Along with Matt, I want to recognize Brenna Levitan, Eri Shay, Emily Dohler Rodas, Michael Solomon, Nate Tinbite, Christian Crawford, and a student from American University who helped them organize, Aaron Thorp. These student leaders and the many peers who march with them [last week] deserve to be heard in the halls of Congress.

“Mr. Speaker, we must not fail them. Like the young leaders of generations ago, of centuries ago, of millennia ago, these young leaders are calling to our conscience to take action and we must not fail them. We must not fail the students and teachers and parents of Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County; or Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida; or Marshall County High School in Kentucky; or Umpqua Community College in Rosebud, Oregon; or Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; or Virginia Tech; or Columbine; or any other school that has witnessed the carnage of a school shooting.

“Mr. Speaker, we must take real action – action to make our schools and our communities safer from gun violence. I am proud to stand with the young Americans who walked out and thank them for their passion and their advocacy. And who say they do not want to go to school and be afraid. One young woman said the first thing she does when she goes to school now is look for a place to hide.

“Mr. Speaker, we must do better than that. I will continue to work closely with the community in Great Mills in the days and weeks ahead as we try to heal and move forward. But Mr. Speaker, in order to do that, this body, the People’s body – who raise our hand and swear an oath to the Constitution and laws of our country, designed to create a more perfect union, a union in which the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is protected by the People's House – Mr. Speaker, let us act.”