As lawmakers are filtering into the House chamber to get ready for legislative business, some will turn to California Democrat Scott Peters and ask, “What are you doing?”
Once a week, Peters delivers a one-minute speech to read names he does not want forgotten: The victims of gun violence .
“We thought the one way to remind people about the human cost of inaction was to start reading these names,” he said.
So far, there have been 278 names, over 13 readings .
“It’s not the typical, ‘I rise today to talk about this or that’ or you know, school championships or Obamacare. It’s just reading names,” he said.
The names began with Sandy Hook Elementary School’s massacre victims and as he proceeds, they are read from every shooting since. “The victims are all from literally months old to people in their 80s or 90s,” he said. “I think it’s pretty effective just to remind people.”
His goal is also pretty simple: to force action on a firearms loophole.
Specifically involving online sales and sales at gun shows, Peters wants a vote on a bill that would make these sales subject to background checks.
“We’re not trying to do assault weapon bans, nothing ambitious,” he said. “Just something that everyone agrees on that would be effective that even gun owners think is a good idea.”
Peters first was drawn to the issue when the shooting at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., occurred in late 2012, killing 20 children and six staff members. The father of two recalls the palpable emotion in the chamber before the State of the Union the following January.
And he remembers his disappointment when the Senate killed the assault weapons ban of 2013, which was introduced a month after the school tragedy. “So I thought that was it,” he said. “I thought if you can’t do anything in response to that kind of massacre then there really is no hope.”
What gives him hope now? A year ago, he did an event with San Diego’s former Mayor and Chief of Police Republican Jerry Sanders about background checks in San Diego. “I go through these things all the time and who knows what’s going to interest people — everyone showed up, every camera showed up,” he said.
Peters said he sees progress in the presidential race as candidates are discussing gun laws. “But, in Congress— nothing,” he said. So, he is going to the floor every week until the House votes.
“The interesting thing has been that it’s very arresting, people are paying attention,” he said.