A picture of Senator Richard Blumenthal
Richard B.
Democrat CT

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  • Remembering Javier Martinez

    by Senator Richard Blumenthal

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, many of us have come back from a couple of wonderful weeks in our home States, traveling and visiting with families, and had the privilege of spending time with loved ones and sharing our hopes and plans for the new year. Not everyone was so fortunate.

    I rise today to honor the memory of yet another tragic victim of gun violence in Connecticut and our country.

    On December 28, in New Haven, shortly before the beginning of this new year, one family's time together with their son was cut short when Javier Martinez was shot and killed.

    I have his picture here in the Chamber. His memory is with us today, as I ask this body to honor him, along with other victims of gun violence who have died since Newtown, and those who have died before Newtown, and now I ask them to be remembered not only in words but also in action by this body, so that Javier shall not have died in vain.

    He was only 18 years old. He was a senior at Common Ground High School in New Haven, one of the really extraordinary educational institutions in our State.

    His teachers and classmates describe him as a kind, intelligent young man who was becoming a leader in the school and in his community.

    He had a bright future. In fact, he had the whole world, his whole life ahead of him.

    At Common Ground, a charter school that focuses on sustainability and connecting students with natural resources in their own communities, he was absolutely thriving.

    I have heard that some of his classmates and teachers at Common Ground are perhaps watching right now or will watch at some point, and I want to thank them for joining in honoring his memory and continuing his work to make our planet, our world, our Nation, and the community of New Haven better, and keeping faith with his memory.

    Javier cared about his community and the environment and the issues of sustainability and clean air and clean water, and he took action to improve the world around him.

    Last summer he participated in a highly competitive internship at the Nature Conservancy, where he worked to protect endangered species. A director of this program regarded Javier as one of the most outstanding participants that the program ever had.

    He spent last spring planting trees--planting trees--with the New Haven Urban Resources Initiative. He planted trees that he will never sit under, but the world will be better for all that he did--one small act, one small part of what Javier did to make New Haven and the world better.

    This past fall he joined a crew of West River Stewards, identifying and documenting sources of pollution along the West River in the New Haven area.

    Not only did he have a bright future ahead of him, but he knew what he wanted. He was pursuing the American dream. He was seeking and working to make America a better place for him and for his fellow students at Common Ground.

    By all accounts he was not only dedicated and hard working, but he had a good heart. He had a great sense of himself. He stayed out of trouble. He had no criminal record whatsoever, it goes without saying. He worked hard at his studies.

    He was loved in New Haven by his classmates, by his teachers, and by all who knew him. He had a growing dedication to protecting that world. Unfortunately, our society failed to protect him, failed to protect him during the simple act of walking home, failed to protect him from gun violence, failed to protect him in a neighborhood where he thought he would be safe as he walked.

    On that early morning of December 28, shortly before 1 a.m., he was found shot to death on the streets of New Haven. In fact, he was walking from his house to a friend's house. He did not have a car, so his only choice was to walk. He sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene.

    The police are continuing to investigate. Have no doubt that they are working hard. The New Haven Police have been extraordinarily responsive and responsible in combating gun violence, so I know they are going to get answers. Whether they will ever get enough answers to prosecute someone remains to be seen. But I know they are dedicated to finding out what happened on that night.

    The death of Javier Martinez is a tragedy, heartbreaking. It is heartbreaking, as are many of the random deaths in America resulting from gun violence. This young man is a testament to our continuing responsibility, our obligation, and our opportunity to combat and prevent gun violence on the streets and in the neighborhoods across our country.

    Just a few weeks ago I spoke on this floor, in this very place, about another promising young person from Connecticut who was killed by a person with a gun whose name was Erika Robinson. The victim of that crime, Erika Robinson, just like Javier, was killed because she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    We ought to remember some of the other victims. We should keep in mind all of the now tens of thousands, just since Newtown, who maybe survived but who are changed and challenged in ways they never could have envisioned. Their lives have been changed forever.

    Amber Smith, who worked as a manager in a New Haven Burger King restaurant, was shot on September 15, 2013, when two robbers entered that Burger King.

    The robbers demanded that she open a safe in the business, and one of them shot her in the upper hip and through her leg. She was just 19 years old at the time on September 15, 2013.

    She remembers thinking that she was going to die and wondering who would take care of her two small children. She almost bled to death but was saved, fortunately, by receiving surgery in the emergency room. So she survived the shooting, but she lives with the psychological and the physical trauma of that shooting every day.

    These random acts of violence may not always make the national news, they may not always take a life, but they change lives, and they take lives one or two at a time.

    Those shooting deaths of Javier Martinez and Erika Robinson have become all too often the mundane evil of our time. The banality of evil is found in gun violence, and we seem to accept it all too often with indifference as another news item. Yet it should be as repugnant and abhorrent and unacceptable as the deaths of 20 innocent children in Newtown and 6 great educators because every act of gun violence diminishes us as a nation and as a community.

    Our country has come to the point that gun violence can happen anywhere. If your life has not been touched by it, there is a near certainty that it will be at some point--tragically, unfortunately-- because far too often communities suffer in silence. We need to end that silence. We need to end the inaction and the acceptance of this mundane and banal evil that lives among us.

    While we have failed to act in this Chamber, even though we had a majority of 55 Senators ready to approve very simple, commonsense measures to stop gun violence, the President has done what he can through executive action, most recently on mental health. I commend him for those actions. He has done what he can to strengthen Federal background checks for firearms purchases. I thank him for that action.

    These changes are incremental, but they are steps in the right direction.

    States have taken the leadership on this issue as well, maybe even more so than the Federal Government. My own [[Page S202]] State of Connecticut, laudably, has passed laws to effectively ban, for example, the sale of assault weapons.

    But this body and this government need to act. The Federal Government has a responsibility that only it can address, because we know that guns are trafficked across State lines. Stolen and illegally bought guns are trafficked across State lines. No single State can put a stop to it.

    We know that without action in this body, mental health will remain an unmet need in this country. We know that without action in this country, background checks for people who buy firearms will be incomplete and inadequate.

    So Javier's death should be a reminder and a call to action. As the people of his family and New Haven mourn his death, we should celebrate his contributions in making our planet better, in protecting the precious resources that, unfortunately, he was unable to enjoy, and resolve to protect better the innocent people, particularly our children, who at any moment, at any place, may become victims of gun violence.


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