Congress

Pelosi says threats outlined by Trump left out gun violence

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, noticed an omission in Trump’s State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Many of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reactions to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address were displayed clearly on her face Tuesday night, but her disappointment wasn’t just about what the president said — but what he didn’t.

After the speech, Pelosi said that with all the emphasis on security, the president skipped over a major issue impacting communities: gun violence.

“The overwhelming reaction that I’m receiving is that the president talked about security in so many different ways, and he totally ignored the gun violence epidemic in our country,” she told reporters just before midnight Tuesday as the Capitol emptied out.

Many Democrats invited guests to the State of the Union who had lost family members to gun violence.

Pelosi’s guests included Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland, Fla., shooting. He has become a supporter of universal background checks since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. Mattie Scott, president of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign, was also a guest of Pelosi’s. Scott’s son George was shot and killed in 1996, which has prompted her to advocate for gun violence prevention.

“They were just so saddened by the fact that he made no pass at it, no acknowledgment of it, while representing that he was talking about keeping American people safe,” said Pelosi about gun violence.

Democrats were not the only ones who had guests impacted by gun violence. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott also brought a Parkland parent, Andrew Pollack. Pollack’s daughter, Meadow, was one of 17 people killed. Just before leaving the governor’s office in Tallahassee, Scott appointed Pollack to Florida’s education board. Pollack has called for stronger school security and allowing school staff to be armed.

Pelosi called Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “fear mongering on immigrants,” and said that she would have rather seen “any positive recognition that many people are dying in our country because of the epidemic of gun violence.”

“Sadly, while talking about perceived threats to the safety of the American people, he completely ignored the gun violence epidemic that is claiming lives across the country,” she said. 

The new House Democratic majority is energetically taking up gun violence as an issue, prioritizing a push for a bipartisan universal background checks bill which would close the “gun-show loophole” nationwide, and discussing other legislation like a universal red-flag law.

Those laws are aimed at prohibiting persons convicted of dating violence and stalking and those under protective orders from possessing firearms. Some states already have so-called red flag laws in place, with the aim of preventing escalation of violence.

Highlighting the problem of gun violence is a message that Democrats will keep pushing, even this week. The House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on gun violence, the first in eight years, on Wednesday. Aalayah Eastmond, a Parkland shooting survivor, will testify.

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