Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—Continuedby Senator Christopher Murphy
Posted on 2013-06-13
MURPHY. Madam President, I join my colleague from Connecticut on
the floor of the Senate to commemorate a sad day; 6 months since the
shootings in Newtown took the lives of 20 6- and 7-year-olds and 6 of
the teachers charged with protecting them. I know you share in our
sadness, Madam President, since it was not too long afterwards that
your State went through a tragedy of smaller and bigger proportions.
We have to wonder, 6 months later, after these families, the brothers and the sisters and the moms and the dads of these victims coming down to the Senate, over and over again, including this week, looking Senator after Senator, Congressman after Congressman, in the eye and asking for this place to learn something from this tragedy--we wonder how 6 months later we have done nothing. We wonder how, if 20 little kids dying at the hands of a mad man with a gun over the course of 5 or 10 minutes doesn't move this place to action, what would? What visit to your office, what message, what story, what set of facts could possibly make this place change the laws that have allowed for these slaughters--plural--over and over again to happen? It is 6 months later and we have done nothing. At least on the Senate floor we raised the bill, we put it on for debate, we got 55 votes, and the rules prevented us from getting it passed. The House down the hall has done absolutely nothing. They have not lifted a finger to move legislation for 6 months, 6 months later, and no answer to these families.
I was there with Senator Blumenthal that afternoon in that firehouse. Those are moments I would, a lot of days, love to have never lived-- things I did not need to see. But it changed my life and committed me to action.
It commands us to understand that the most shallow argument that has been posed, I would argue the most [[Page S4462]] backward argument that has been posed over the last 6 months, is that, yes, these terrible things happen--the most terrible of them we are marking the 6-month anniversary of--but there is nothing we could do here that would change that; that very bad things are going to happen to good people, to good first grade students, but that nothing here is going to truly change any of that.
That is just flat wrong. It should not be every 6 months that we come to the floor to try to rebut that argument. It should be every day. Because in Columbine, the guns that were bought to slaughter those high school students were bought outside of the background check system-- intentionally so, because the person who bought them knew if they went into a legitimate gun store they would not be able to purchase the guns that were being requested, so they went to a gun show, around the background check system.
We know different laws would change things because in Aurora the shooter went in with a 100-round drum and the shooting stopped and people escaped, including a couple of my constituents, because the gun jammed. They had trouble switching these massive ammunition clips.
In Newtown, we know the power of the gun that was used. These assault weapons are all over the place today. They have become commonplace. But it does not belie the fact that they still have a power to kill that few other guns do, so much so that when Lanza walked into that school that day, fired over 150 rounds, shot 20 kids, not a single one of them survived. Every kid he shot died, in part because of the power of that gun. That same day a very sick man walked into a school in China, armed with a weapon, attacked over 20 children and every single one of them lived. That guy had a knife.
Assault weapons, if we continue to allow them to ripple throughout our streets, lead to mass slaughters. High-capacity ammunition clips, when somebody chooses to engage in one of these massacres, allow more people to be killed. Our failure, over and over again, to pass comprehensive background checks is unacceptable, given the number of criminals and the number of people with severe mental illness who are still allowed to get guns over the Internet or in gun shows; 6 months and we have done nothing.
But I stand here, frankly, more optimistic about human nature than I was 6 months ago, not less optimistic. I might be less optimistic about this place and about the Congress, but I am more optimistic about the indomitable human spirit than I was when this started out.
Senator Blumenthal said it best. That 10 minutes of grievous violence, mental illness masquerading as evil inside that school, was essentially enveloped by the millions of acts of humanity that just flowed forth from Newtown, from Connecticut, from all over the country, whether it was the heroism of those teachers, whether it was the firefighters, the volunteer fighters who stayed at that firehouse for days or weeks on end with no pay or just the thousands of gifts--teddy bears, small tokens of appreciation of the community that came from all over the country.
People are good. They truly are. Despite what that young man did, it reaffirmed my faith in who we are.
Last Friday night, the Sandy Hook Fire Department had their big annual fundraiser. Some people wondered whether they would do it. First of all, they said they were going to do it because they were not going to start changing the way they did things and, second, they needed the money because they expended a lot of effort and equipment and resources in responding to this tragedy. On Friday we had an absolute deluge in New England. It was raining cats and dogs all day. There was no reason they should have gone forward on Friday night with that lobster bake at the Sandy Hook firehouse, but they decided to put it on, and I went, despite thinking there were going to be about six people inside that firehouse. It was packed, jammed full of people, not just from Newtown but from all over New England who came down on a torrentially raining evening to show their support for those firefighters, for that community, and for those families. That is what defines Newtown.
Six months later, we know the headlines still read about the 26 kids and adults who lost their lives there. But what we know Newtown to be today is a place full of love, full of compassion, and--though not maybe today yet--a place that will, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years down the line be defined by resiliency.
I wish we weren't down here commemorating 6 months. I wish we weren't down here commemorating nothing having been done over the course of 6 months. But we are not going away. We are not giving up. The families who were down here this week didn't turn into advocates for 4 months, they turned into advocates for 40 years, and they will be back again and again until we have an answer for these mass tragedies and for the 5,033 people who have died at the hands of guns since December 14--6 months ago.
I yield back the floor and note the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Carper). The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.