Executive Sessionby Senator Christopher Murphy
Posted on 2014-01-06
MURPHY. Madam President, I hope we will confirm Janet Yellen
I come to the floor for a few minutes to do what I have done most weeks since the failure of this Senate to pass commonsense gun legislation in the spring of 2013, to talk about the number of Americans who have lost their lives due to gun violence. That number stands today at 12,041. Over 12,000 people have died at the hands of gun violence since December 14, which of course is the day in which 20 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds and 6 teachers and professionals who were protecting them lost their lives in Newtown, CT.
This is probably the last time we will have the chance to display this particular number because the Web site which has been totalling this is going to stop doing so. It is probably a good thing in this respect: Once that 1 became a crooked number, we weren't going to have room on this poster any longer; and at some point in the middle of next year, the 1 would click up to a 2 and we would be over 20,000 people killed due to guns. Frankly, this doesn't even count the suicides. This is just the people who have died as a result of gun homicides, and the number just goes up and up at a rate which is hard to comprehend.
So I wish to speak for a few minutes about a few of the representative victims we have seen across the country in the last year, which make up just a small subset of the 12,000 people, and I hope maybe one of these days it will inspire this place to action.
I was at the swearing in of the new mayor of New Haven on New Year's Day. Toni Harp is the first female mayor of New Haven, the 50th mayor of New Haven, and she will inherit a city being absolutely ravaged by gun violence--20 gun homicides in the last year and 67 shootings. Each one of them hurts, but the last one was particularly devastating.
Javier Martinez died on December 28, 2013. Javier attended a local high school focused on learning about and protecting the environment, Common Ground High School. He was described as one of the most outstanding participants in the 20-year history of a program put on through the school whereby kids spent part of their summer on Block Island, a little island in between Connecticut and Rhode Island, where they work to eliminate invasive species and spread the environmental gospel to visitors to that small island.
He was beloved by his family and by his friends. He was thinking of becoming an arborist or environmental scientist. His community--in particular, his pretty, sleepy neighborhood in which this shooting happened--has been absolutely torn apart through the loss of Javier-- Bebo, as he was called by his grandparents.
He is one of 20 people in New Haven, CT, who were lost. Twelve of the 20 were under 30 years old. Eleven of them were men; 17 of them were African American. That is the story in New Haven. It is young African American males who are dying almost every week as part of the 12,041.
Just a couple of months earlier, John Allen Read died in Texas due to a gunshot wound. What makes John Allen Reed exceptional is that he was 5 years old. He is one of dozens of accidental gun deaths happening all across this country.
He and his 6-month-old sibling were in the care of a regular baby sitter, but a baby sitter who feared for her safety so she carried a gun with her. But she left the gun on a table and fell asleep. The 5- year-old got the gun. When she woke up to try to find the kids, she found John dead with a fatal gunshot wound.
We heard the stories all throughout 2013. I don't know whether statistically there were more in 2013 than in previous years. But because we don't require much if any training before buying a gun, we have young baby sitters leaving guns unattended with these absolutely devastating results.
How about 4 months before that in Seattle, where Molly Conley, a 15- year-old, a great goalie on her high school team, a straight-A student, was killed while she was walking back with friends after celebrating her recent birthday at a sleepover. Detectives believe a shooter opened fire on Molly Conley and her group of friends.
[[Page S8]] Her nickname was ``4.0'' because she was such a good student. ``She always smiled. She gave people smiles, and she was joyful and kind. She had a generous spirit,'' said Molly's mother.
Molly, John, and Javier are just three of the voices of victims we need to start talking about on the floor, because if the statistics don't seem to be moving people to action, maybe the stories will.
As I hope we will this year, let's be realistic about what we can and can't do. I have come here every week to talk about the stories of the people who have died at the hands of guns. I understand there is no law that is going to completely eradicate gun violence, and I understand that there is no one solution at hand which will have a radical transformation overnight.
I believe this is about gun laws. But I also understand it is about better mental health treatment. I also understand it is about a culture of violence. I also understand it is about a sense of hopelessness felt by a lot of kids in poor neighborhoods which leads them to violence as a way of solving common, everyday disputes.
So I am ready on the floor of the Senate to have a real, sober, dispassionate argument about what we can do together this year to try to make sure this number in 2014 is just a little bit lower than it was in 2013.
With that in mind, I will leave us with this one last story, and that is the story of Zina Daniel.
Zina Daniel took out a restraining order on her husband after years of violence and abuse. Police were reportedly called to this home dozens of times. Her husband was upset about that restraining order, and knowing that he couldn't get a gun at a retailer because he wouldn't pass a background check, he went online to Armslist. Within hours he found a seller who would supply to him a .40 caliber Glock handgun, which he picked up in a McDonald's parking lot for $500 cash. The next day, he went into Zina's workplace, and he murdered her and two other women. He injured four others.
Zina's brother said this: I'm a gun owner, a hunter and a member of the National Rifle Association. I believe in the Second Amendment, but I also believe in sensible gun laws. I've seen how devastating gun violence can be. And I know that Radcliffe never should have been able to buy a gun online without a background check. A background check would have saved my sister's life.
I don't know what we will be able to get done this year. I don't know if there are 60 votes in the Senate for the kind of expansion of background checks that many of us, including Zina's brother, would like to see. But let's not let the whole year go by without at least some attempt among Senators of good will on both sides of the aisle, so that when this number does come back up at the end of 2014, it is just a little bit lower.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nevada.
Unemployment Compensation Mr. HELLER. Madam President, I rise today to discuss an issue that has been in the forefront of the minds of many Americans ringing in the new year; that is, extending benefits for the unemployed--something that is important, of course, for a lot of Americans.