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Richard B.
Democrat CT

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  • Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Richard Blumenthal

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.



    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, in the midst of this momentous debate, truly one which will determine the future of the country, I rise on a matter of equal importance, in my view.

    Today we welcomed to the Capitol 26 bicyclists, riders who left Saturday morning on this journey. This journey led them to travel the roads from Newtown, CT, to dramatize the importance of actions against gun violence in the United States.

    I have said about Newtown that we saw on December 14 of last year enormous evil and depravity in the deaths of 20 beautiful, innocent children and 6 dedicated, courageous educators who literally perished trying to save the lives of those children. We saw evil that day in Connecticut, but we also saw enormous goodness and heroism in the educators who sought to save those children and the first responders who charged into the school. They did so not knowing what would befall them, what they would see, and thereby stopped the massacre.

    The community came together in support of the families and all who were affected so deeply by that tragedy. This community has demonstrated enormous strength and courage over these months. It is an example of the quintessential values which make us proud to be an American.

    The riders who came to the Capitol, who rode from Newtown on a rough and difficult journey, also showed something profoundly significant and important about Newtown as a community, as well as about themselves. They included as an honorary rider a parent of one of the victims, Chris McDonnell, who was at the departure, and his wife, Lynn, who was also there at the beginning, although she didn't ride.

    They carried with them, those 26 riders, the memory of Grace McDonnell. As one of them said--, Monte Frank, who organized and led the effort--Grace was on their wheels. They carried with them the memory of Grace, but they also carried the hopes and [[Page S1700]] hearts of America. Everywhere they went on that journey, people stopped them, thanked them and honored them, as I seek to do today here on the floor of the Senate.

    I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record two letters, both written to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the ranking member, along with Senators Murphy and myself, letters written by Lynn and Chris McDonnell and a separate letter written by the families of some of those victims.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: March 11, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Russell Senate Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Richard Blumenthal, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Republican, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Chris Murphy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Dear Chairman Leahy and Senators Grassley, Blumenthal, and Murphy: We are 32 family members of victims who were killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012--innocent children and their educators responsibly going about their day.

    No one can describe our pain and the brutal day-to-day emotions we suffer. No one can bring our loved ones back and no one from our community of Newtown, Connecticut will ever go back to ``normal.'' In the midst of our anguish we have learned about the dangerous loopholes in our nation's gun laws and we are compelled to speak out to save others from suffering what we have endured. We are writing today to express our deep conviction and support for the President's plan to reduce gun violence in America.

    Specifically we are asking members of Congress to: 1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America that includes a review of all disqualifying records and meaningful record keeping for all sales--in the same manner that Federally licensed dealers are currently required; 2. Ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; and 3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with real penalties for straw purchasers; The epidemic of injury and death from gun violence is a plague on America, especially since the toll it takes on our families is preventable. Our nation's families deserve to be safe and free in their schools, movie theaters, workplaces and their homes. We ask Congress, in honor and memory of our loved ones, to support the measures that the President has put forward to help stem the epidemic of gun violence.

    Our precious children and family members who were so brutally murdered on December 14th deserve nothing less.

    Sincerely, Jackie Barden, Mother of Daniel Barden; Mark Barden, Father of Daniel Barden; Neil Heslin, Father of Jesse Lewis; Veronique Pozner, Mother of Noah Pozner; Len Pozner, Father of Noah Pozner; Gilles Rousseau, Father of Lauren Rousseau; Teresa Rousseau, Mother of Lauren Rousseau; Andrew Rousseau, Brother of Lauren Rousseau; Matthew Rousseau, Brother of Lauren Rousseau; Suzanne Connors, Sister of Mary Sherlach; Jane Dougherty, Sister of Mary Sherlach; Joseph Greene, Brother of Mary Sherlach; Carlos Soto, Father of Victoria Soto; Donna Soto, Mother of Victoria Soto; Carlee Soto, Sister of Victoria Soto; Carlos M. Soto, Brother of Victoria Soto.

    Jillian Soto, Sister of Victoria Soto; Donald Fagan, Grandfather of Victoria Soto; Debra Cronk, Aunt and Godmother of Victoria Soto; Robert Cronk, Uncle of Victoria Soto; Dean Fagan, Uncle and Godfather of Victoria Soto; Denise Fagan, Aunt of Victoria Soto; Don Fagan, Uncle of Victoria Soto; Linda Fagan, Aunt of Victoria Soto; Alex Fagan, cousin of Victoria Soto; Brianne Cronk, cousin of Victoria Soto; Christopher Fagan, cousin of Victoria Soto; Donald Fagan, cousin of Victoria Soto; Douglas Fagan, cousin of Victoria Soto; Heather Cronk, cousin of Victoria Soto; Wesley Cronk, cousin of Victoria Soto; Zachary Fagan, cousin of Victoria Soto.

    ____ March 11, 2013.

    Hon. Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, Russell Senate Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Richard Blumenthal, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Republican, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Hon. Chris Murphy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Dear Senators Leahy, Grassley, Blumenthal and Murphy, On December 14th our family was forever torn apart by gun violence. On that day we lost the love and light of our family, our daughter Grace. Grace and nineteen of her 1st grade classmates and six teachers were senselessly murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. One can not describe the pain and anguish that our family has experienced, a pain that goes beyond just our immediate family, but permeates our entire community.

    In the wake of our darkest day, we have become acutely aware that the state of our gun laws in America is at best ineffective. While no one thing led to the devastation that occurred in Sandy Hook on December 14th, it will be a compressive approach that leads us to preventing such loss of life in the future.

    We are writing today to express our conviction and support for the President's plan to reduce gun violence in America. Specifically we are appealing to members of Congress to: Require a comprehensive criminal background check for every gun sold in America that includes a review of all disqualifying records and meaningful record keeping for all sales--in the same manner that Federally licensed gun dealers are required; Ban all military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines; Establish gun trafficking as a federal crime, with substantial penalties for straw purchasers.

    We hope that all of our nation's elected representatives will step forward with the moral courage and commitment needed to tackle the grave issue of gun violence that confronts us. We ask that action is chosen over inaction when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, our children.

    We appeal to you as parents to honor the memories of those lives lost at Sandy Hook and support the measures that the President has put forward to reduce the epidemic of gun violence.

    That much is owed to our children.

    Sincerely, Chris & Lynn McDonnell.

    Mr. BLUMENTHAL. These letters summarize the reason for their journey in very specific terms, stating: In the midst of our anguish we have learned about the dangerous loopholes in the Nation's gun laws, and we are compelled to speak out to save others from suffering what we have endured. We are writing today to express our deep conviction and support for the President's plan to reduce gun violence in America.

    Specifically, we are asking Members of Congress to: 1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America that includes a review of all disqualifying records and meaningful recordkeeping for all sales--in the same manner that federally licensed dealers are currently required; 2. Ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; and 3. Make gun trafficking a Federal crime, with real penalties for straw purchasers.

    The epidemic of injury and death from gun violence is a plague on America, especially since the toll it takes on our families is preventable.

    The letters go on.

    As I told them when they arrived, an event which was electric, literally in the shadow of the Capitol, their journey sent a message. Very simply, all of us who believe we must stop a scourge and epidemic of gun violence, all of us must keep on pedaling. We must do as they did. Even though our road, like theirs, may be rough and uphill at times, we need to keep on pedaling and working. Never give up. We need to keep faith with those victims and their families, the 26 victims of that massacre at Sandy Hook. When they rode to Congress, their message to us is we need to keep faith with those victims and assure Newtown never happens again. If it happened in Newtown, it can happen anywhere in America. It is not just a mass shooting which is involved, it is the 2,500 people who have been victims of gun violence since December 14, all around Connecticut, all around the Nation, not only in communities such as Newtown, the quintessential New England town, but on the streets of Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford, in neighborhoods, in big cities, rural areas, and suburban towns.

    Team 26 is really Team Connecticut and Team America. It brings those values, courage, and strength Newtown had shown to Congress. Congress needs to heed and hear the country, just as people on their route honored Team 26. The American people believe we must do something about gun violence in America. They believe overwhelmingly, the polls show 80, 90 percent on all of these issues. They want action from this Congress.

    As the President of the United States said to all of us in his State of the Union, the American people want a vote. The victims' families from Tucson, Virginia Tech, and Aurora deserve a vote. This is why Team 26 made this journey, and why they embody the conscience of America. The letters they [[Page S1701]] have written to Senators here call for action on measures which are common sense and common ground. We can reach a bipartisan compromise if we recognize the carnage, death, and destruction that is the result of gun violence in America.

    These measures are law enforcement tools. Background checks enable enforcement of existing laws, the prohibition against criminals, drug addicts, domestic abusers, and the seriously mentally ill from purchasing guns, not just from federally licensed dealers. Background checks are necessary to enforce that law, just as is the prohibition on purchase of ammunition by those same categories of people. Likewise, the Federal ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchases is necessary to enforce existing prohibition. We have work to do.

    I want to conclude by thanking those who are all family, who have stood strong and spoken out. Every time they do, it is with grief and pain. Anyone who spent time with them--and I have been privileged to spend hours and hours, days, over these past months with those families, as well as first responders, who still bear the scars, emotional scars, which are deeply felt.

    I have great admiration for their courage and strength. I hope this body will take heart from it and will take their leadership as a message we must act, we must vote, we must do something about gun violence in America.

    I am proud to welcome Team 26.

    I ask unanimous consent the full list of all riders and their support group be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: Rider #1. Monte Frank, who is here today with his wife Leah, and his daughters Becky and Sarah; Bill Muzzio Rider; Chris Peck, Newtown, Connecticut Rider; John Funk, South Kent, Connecticut Rider; Stephen Badger, Roxbury, Connecticut Rider; Andrea Myers, Danbury, Connecticut Rider; Mike Andrews, Danbury, Connecticut Rider; Tom Officer, Litchfield, Connecticut Rider; Jeremy Brazeal, Manchester, Connecticut Rider; Officer Jeff Silver, Newtown, Connecticut Rider; Matt Baldwin, Redding, Connecticut Rider; Jonathan Lowenstein, North Kingstown, Rhode Island Rider; Lieutenant Gary Lyke, Brookfield, Connecticut Rider; Michael Magur, Newburgh, New York Rider; Andy Officer, Goshen, Connecticut Rider; Fred Thomas, Cape Elizabeth, Maine Rider; Carl Reglar, Mt. Vernon, New York Rider; Wayne Prescott, Litchfield, Connecticut Rider; Kevin Fitzmaurice, Middlebury, Connecticut Rider; Megan Cea, West Harrison, New York Rider; Brian Suto, Oxford, Connecticut Rider; Matt Emeott, Woodbury, Connecticut Rider; John Ford, West Harrison, New York Rider; Aidan Charles, Middletown, Connecticut Rider; Heather Peck, Newtown, Connecticut Honorary Team; and Rider: Chris McDonnell, Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

    And their Support Crew: Sean Cavanaugh, Danbury, Connecticut Support Crew; Becky Frank, Sandy Hook, Connecticut Support Crew; Adam Silbert, New York, NY Support Crew; Peter Olson, Bethel, Connecticut Support Crew; Greg Meghani, Bethlehem, Connecticut Support Crew; and Mike Conlan, Ridgefield, Connecticut.

    Mr. BLUMENTHAL. I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.

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