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Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence

Representing the 14th District of Michigan

Congresswoman Lawrence Issues Statement on State Sen. Pinckney's funeral in South Carolina

June 26, 2015
Press Release
Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) calls on nation to focus on issues of civil justice and gun violence in honor of the nine lives lost in Charleston, South Carolina

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “I join the nation today as we gather in spirit with Charleston, South Carolina to honor the memory of State Sen. Clementa Pinckney and the eight other innocent souls violently taken last week by a deranged and hate-filled young man who they had greeted with love and acceptance in the sanctuary of their church.

The photos of these victims that greeted us nearly every morning in our newspapers and on our TV screens have raised the memories and the ghosts of our nation’s violent and racist history. Those memories include four little girls who were so brutally murdered in 1963 when their church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed and Mother Emanuel itself, which was founded by African Americans who fought slavery and which was burned to the ground because of that fight.

Today, the man responsible for the slayings of those nine people in Charleston is facing not only nine counts of murder but also potential federal hate crime charges. This tragedy, however, encompasses far more than the pursuit of criminal justice.

It has ignited a necessary and long-overdue dialogue about the improper display of the Confederate flag at state and federal sites. Those who defend the flag use terms like ‘state’s rights’ and ‘heritage’ to distract from the real issues. The fact remains that those states were wrong to imprison and enslave human beings. The heritage of hate and oppression represented by that flag should be remembered, but it should never have a place of honor in our public spaces.

This tragedy also highlights the ongoing plague of gun violence in our nation. Last weekend, in my hometown of Detroit, 27 people were shot in less than 24 hours. Three of those people were killed. My constituents in Michigan’s 14th District are mourning the loss of local loved ones as well as the nine people killed at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Our wounded residents, which include a mother and her two-year-old child, are nursing their own scars as the nation nurses the psychological scars suffered in the aftermath of the South Carolina killings.

As I said on the House Floor Wednesday, I strongly support Americans’ Second Amendment Rights. However, it is abundantly clear that America has a problem and that we must act to fix that problem. Our nation’s gun deaths are triple that of other countries that have enacted universal background checks and other commonsense guns laws; nations like Canada, Italy, France, Japan, and the countries that make up the United Kingdom. A staggering 90 percent of American voters want universal background checks. It is time for Congress, along with state and local leaders, to act.

That action must include three goals:

  • Establish universal background checks;
  • Eliminate all gun show loopholes;
  • And enforce our existing gun control laws.

We must act in honor of the people slain in Charleston, in Detroit, and all over America every day.

We must act to ensure that the tragedy of these senseless deaths does not eclipse the value of these individuals’ lives.

We must act to help the United States heal and to come together in the pursuit of a more perfect union which includes our freedom and civil rights and respect for people of all races and ethnicities. That is the American dream.”