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Harry R.
Democrat NV

About Sen. Harry
  • Gun Violence

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    REID. Mr. President, I hope all Members of Congress--Democrats and Republicans, Members of the House and Senate--take a long, hard look this morning, maybe in the mirror, and ask themselves: Where do I stand? Yet again our country is faced with another sickening act of gun violence. Yesterday's shooting rampage took the lives of 14 people and wounded at least 17 more, a number of those grievously injured. That wasn't the only shooting yesterday; a gunman in Georgia killed a woman and injured three others.

    So where do we stand? We have an epidemic of gun violence in America, and it is nothing less than sickening.

    Fort Hood, 13 dead; Tucson, 6 dead; Carson City, 4 dead; Aurora, 12 dead; Newtown, 20 little children, 6 educators; the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, 12 dead; Las Vegas, 3 dead, two of whom were police officers. And I have heard this talk: Oh, it is so unusual, a husband and wife. These three people killed in Las Vegas were killed by a husband-and-wife team. In Charleston, nine dead; Moneta, VA, two dead-- on live television, he came to kill two people. At Umpqua Community College, nine dead; Colorado Springs, three dead.

    That tragic list is nowhere close to being comprehensive. The one in Georgia yesterday--one dead, two wounded. It hardly made the press. But the ones I just mentioned are a few that we picked up earlier this morning in my office.

    It would be very difficult to list all the mass killings that have taken place in recent years. Why? Because we are 337 days into 2015 and we have had at least 355 mass shootings--355 mass shootings in 337 days. We are averaging more than one a day.

    Two months ago I came to the floor very sad. I was here mourning the murder of innocent community college students attending class in Roseburg, OR. I said then that each time our Nation endures one of these mass killings, we go through the same routine. First we are shocked. Then we ask questions about the killers, their motives, and how they got their hands on those guns. Then we wonder, what could we have done to prevent this terrible thing from happening? As I said, the disturbing part is that we don't do anything. We don't do anything. We, as the legislative body of this country, do nothing. So I have a question for every Member of this body: How can we live with ourselves for failing to do the things that we know will reduce gun violence? Will it get rid of all of it? Of course not. But will it reduce it? Yes. We are complicit through our inaction, and if we continue to fail to act, we will be complicit today and every day into the future. We will keep ending up right where we are, mourning innocent victims in San Bernardino, CA, or Charleston or Newtown. When victims turn to us for leadership and help, we will have nothing to show but empty hands and a few empty gestures. It is despicable.

    For far too long we have done nothing, even as the gun violence shakes our Nation to its core. We must do something. We can start by passing improved background check legislation. Is it asking too much that if someone is crazy or a criminal, they shouldn't be able to walk into any gun shop and buy a gun? Of course not. But that is the law in America.

    I know the thought of upsetting the National Rifle Association scares everybody--oh, especially my Republican colleagues. Do you know what scares the American people? Gun violence. These mass shootings at holiday parties frighten the American people. Is it unreasonable that they are frightened? [[Page S8324]] Of course not. People are afraid to go to a movie theater or to a concert.

    The bill before the Senate today is to get rid of ObamaCare, and everybody knows it is just a gesture in futility. They have tried it 60 times or 48 times--I don't know; we lost track--in the House, and every time, the same answer: No. In the Senate, we have done it 14, 15 times--always the same answer. Einstein said the definition of ``insanity'' is when someone does the same thing over and over again knowing they are going to get the same result. So we are wasting our time today. Everyone knows the result.

    But we have the opportunity to cast a vote here today--or we will shortly--because we are focused on doing something. People on this side of the aisle are focused on doing something to stop this gun violence, and we are going to force amendments to that end today--not many but a few. We will try to do something, anything.

    Are we going to vote on expanded background checks? Shouldn't we do that at least? We are going to vote to prevent criminals convicted of harassing women's health clinics from buying a gun, owning a gun.

    Senators will have to decide where they stand on these amendments. Do they stand with babies who were killed in Connecticut, families who want to do nothing more than go about their day without the daily threat of shootings? My friends in Nevada, two police officers in uniform sitting down to have a lunch break, and two people walk in behind them and shoot them in the back of the head and kill them. They went over to Walmart and killed another person.

    People are afraid.

    There was a time in my legislative career that I tried to work with the National Rifle Association, but the NRA today is a far cry from the sportsmen's organization I once supported. The NRA once called mandatory background checks ``reasonable.'' That is what they said; I am not making this up. But now its leadership and organization have transformed into a quasi-militant wing of the Republican Party. They are being pushed more and more into the camp of guns for everybody anytime they want them, and they are being pushed by the--they have a competitor now: Gun Owners of America.

    Those who choose to do the NRA's bidding will be held accountable by our constituents. Their vote against these sensible measures will be a stain for all of the American people to see.

    Something has to be done. We must take a stand. The American people are desperately looking for help--some help, any help. It will never be possible to prevent every shooting. We know that. But we have a responsibility to try. There are certain things we can do. If someone is mentally deranged and a criminal, should they be able to walk in and buy a gun anyplace? Of course not. We have a responsibility as lawmakers to enact commonsense reforms that have been proven to stop attacks and save lives. I hope Republicans will find the courage to join with us and pass meaningful legislation to prevent further gun violence.

    I apologize for speaking before the Republican leader, but I was told he was going to be late.


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