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House Democrat responds to GOP lawmaker’s comments on school shooting: ‘It is our job to fix it’

The Hill logo The Hill 3/29/2023 Mychael Schnell
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Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) responded to Rep. Tim Burchett’s (R-Tenn.) comment this week that Washington cannot “fix” gun violence by arguing on Wednesday that “it is our job to fix it.”

Escobar — who represents El Paso, which suffered a mass shooting in August 2019 — referenced a widely circulated photo showing a child crying on a bus leaving The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., where a shooter killed three students and three adults on Monday.

“Just the other day one of my colleagues stood on this step — a Republican colleague — and when asked about the Nashville shooting, his response was ‘we’re not gonna fix this.’ We’re not going to fix this,” Escobar said alongside dozens of House Democrats during a news conference on the steps of the Capitol.

“I want you all to remember the photograph; if you haven’t seen it, I hope you see it. A photograph of a Nashville little girl inside a school bus wheezing, sobbing, her face filled with pain and trauma,” she continued. “And that member of Congress, that Republican member of Congress and his entire conference, are telling that family and that little girl, ‘we’re not going to fix this.’ Well guess what? We have to fix it, it is our job to fix it. It is our obligation to fix it.”

Burchett, who represents Knoxville, told reporters earlier this week “we’re not gonna fix it, criminals are gonna be criminals,” when asked about the shooting in his home state. He later doubled down on those comments.

“We’ve got evil in this country, and everybody just needs to tone down the rhetoric a little bit ‘cause all that does is gin it up, in both sides, and then they point the finger and nothing happens,” Burchett told NBC News. “If you think Washington’s gonna fix this problem, you’re wrong. They’re not gonna fix this problem; they are the problem.”

Monday’s shooting marked the 130th mass shooting in the U.S. this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Democrats have re-upped their calls for gun safety legislation in the wake of the tragedy, but the caucus faced an uphill battle of getting anything passed in the Republican-controlled House.

“As moms and elected officials, we share a fundamental responsibility to keep our children safe,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (Mass.) said at the beginning of Wednesday’s news conference.

“Give us a vote on the assault weapons [ban], give us a vote on background checks,” Clark added. “Bring it to the floor, put yourself on record, show the American people your priorities. Is it our kids, or is it guns?”

Congress passed a gun safety package that President Biden signed into law over the summer, marking the first time in almost 30 years that Congress approved significant legislation to combat gun violence. In July, the House passed a bill to ban assault weapons, but the measure did not move on the Senate.

“House Democrats have acted over and over and over again to pass legislation to fix this. If not now, when?” Escobar said on Wednesday. “And to my Republican colleagues who refuse to act, if you don’t want to get to work, get out of the way so that the rest of us can.”

“Enough is enough and we are calling on our colleagues to bring those bills to the floor now and to provide safety and relief to Americans who are demanding it,” she added.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) — who was wounded in a 2017 shooting — told reporters on Monday: “There’s some people, unfortunately, that want to try to exploit a tragedy for their own political gain, and that’s not something that people should be first thinking about when you have a tragedy.”

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