Gun Violenceby Former Senator Carl Levin
Posted on 2014-12-15
LEVIN. Madam President, 15 years ago, in the days after the
shooting at Columbine High School stunned our Nation, I spoke to the
Economic Club of Detroit. There, as our country reflected on gun
violence's horrific toll, I asked a simple question: ``Are we willing
to say enough is enough?''
Now, so many years later, that question still haunts us. Today, in a
country dedicated to ``life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,''
guns kill over 32,000 people a year. That is almost 88 people a day. On
top of that, there are over 73,000 nonfatal gun injuries each year.
That is 200 a day. Some statistics have shown that 50 percent of
suicides in the United States are committed with a firearm. Others have
found that children and young adults account for 38 percent of gun
deaths and nonfatal injuries, and that when guns are present during
incidents of domestic violence, the risk of homicide escalates over 500
[[Page S6864]] Each of these statistics represents tragedy: people with stories, families, loved ones left behind and dreams shattered. A recent CNN report, for example, analyzed all the gun incidents that occurred in America on a day picked at random--July 12, 2014. Their research found on that day alone, at least 83 gun incidents occurred in our country. At 3:20 a.m., a 23-year-old man was shot and killed at an apartment complex in Tallahassee, FL. At 11:01 a.m., in Ohio, officers responding to a domestic violence complaint arrived to a firefight that ended when the gunman turned his weapon on himself. At 6:20 p.m. an elderly man mistakenly shot and killed his neighbor, whom he mistook for an intruder. At 8:40 p.m., in South Carolina, after an altercation at a party, a man sprayed bullets into the crowd, killing a 47-year-old man and injuring another. And these are just a few examples: in the report's words, ``we are certain about one thing--we did not capture every gun incident.'' Congress can take commonsense steps to make things better. We should pass a bill making background checks mandatory on all gun sales, a step that study after study has shown is supported by 90 percent of the American people, as well as 95 percent of American internists and 55.4 percent of gun dealers and pawnbrokers. We should pass legislation to ban military style assault weapons, so as to stop the flood of these weapons into our neighborhoods and streets. The bottom line is that law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line every day need and deserve our support in their effort to ban assault weapons, require background checks and take other steps to reduce gun violence.
We recently observed the 2-year anniversary of the day when a deranged individual took the lives of 26 people, 20 of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The children were first graders, 6- and 7-year-olds. Today, they would have been 8- and 9-year- olds, third graders, celebrating birthdays, learning about fractions and decimals, and reading books. Instead, we can only honor their memory and rededicate ourselves to the work of preventing these tragedies in the future.
So I must ask the question again, Are we willing to say that enough is enough? After so many years and so much senseless death, injury and pain, when will we come together to stop this violence? I am still hopeful. I am hopeful that Congress will finally answer the question in the affirmative ``Enough is enough.'' I am hopeful that Congress will listen to our communities, our educators, and clergy, our law enforcement officials and businesspeople, our families and loved ones and join them in saying ``enough is enough.'' And I am hopeful that one day soon, Congress will pay victims and survivors of American gun violence the highest tribute that it can: legislation to stop the bloodshed, and to make this country that we love better and safer for generations to come.