Third Anniversary of Sandy Hook Tragedyby Senator Richard Blumenthal
Posted on 2015-12-10
BLUMENTHAL. Thank you, Madam President.
I am honored to follow my colleague and friend Senator Murphy in an effort that has involved both of us, our minds and our hearts, from the day we stood together on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Sandy Hook. We have stood together and worked together with the families and community that so inspired us with their strength and courage.
If I have one overriding image and message in my mind and heart, it is those families most directly affected by the deaths of 20 beautiful children and sixth grade educators, the families in the reverberating circle of people so deeply touched, hurt, and harmed by the evil on that day, and the people who exemplified the good of that day, the first responders, the firefighters and police, who saw things no human being should ever have to witness and emerged also deeply hurt and harmed. The courage and strength of Newtown, that community, and the families will always inspire me.
I have worked on gun violence prevention for many years, a couple of decades before December 14, 2012. I was the attorney general of the State of Connecticut and a State legislator advocating for the assault weapon ban and other gun violence prevention measures. Then, as attorney general, I defended the assault weapon ban when it was challenged in court, tried the case, and we successfully argued it in the State supreme court. So I knew intellectually and abstractly why we need in this Nation and in Connecticut stronger measures to stop gun violence. The experience of that day left a [[Page S8575]] searing mark on my heart and on my conscience, so it became for me the passion and priority it is today, and I will not rest as a Member of this body and as a human being until this Nation does better to make America safer and to prevent the kind of tragedy we saw on that day.
I will never forget being at that firehouse on that afternoon, but I will also never forget that evening at St. Rose of Lima Church when the community came together to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.
I had a conversation with one of the parents who lost a child. It was either that night or in the grief-filled days thereafter, when I said to her at some point: When you are ready, I would like to talk to you about what we can do about this. She said to me: I am ready now.
That is the courage we have seen in the last 3 years from those families. It is the courage we saw this morning at an event in the Capitol. It is the courage we have seen again and again from Newtown, from all over the country, loved ones and victims of all of the places--they become kind of landmarks that we recite. There are 30,000 deaths every year from places whose names we could never recite here because it would be too long and because they are the mundane places that all of us go.
As my colleague Senator Murphy said this morning, all of us are just one second away from becoming victims. The fact is we are all touched by gun violence and we are all harmed and hurt by it.
I will never forget that evening. I will never forget also the day on the floor of this House when the Senate failed to approve a commonsense package of gun violence prevention measures, universal background checks, banning illegal trafficking, a ban on assault weapons, the mental health initiative, and from the Gallery someone shouted down: Shame. They may have said: Shame on you. There is no record of it because we record only what happens on the floor, but on that day the most profound and eloquent comment was those three words: ``Shame on you.'' Shame on us in the U.S. Senate. We are complicit by our inaction. Congress is complicit by its silence. Moments of silence have their place, but silence by inaction here is complicity. It is not only the failure to act, it is also the obstruction that has been placed in the way of knowledge and research. The so-called rider--nobody outside the U.S. Capitol would talk about riders, an amendment that stops the government from doing research--literally research, fact gathering, investigation on gun violence. The cause of 30,000 deaths every year in this country cannot be researched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, we face a public health crisis in this country. If it were Ebola or influenza or polio, facing these kinds of epidemics or feared epidemics in this country, we would react with drastic and effective measures, including quarantine, that would mobilize this Nation. The response of the Congress to the epidemic of gun violence is to bar research by the CDC and other public health authorities. The very same public health community that could help us understand and take action is gagged and straitjacketed by the U.S. Congress. Even the initial author of that amendment restricting research, former Congressman Jay Dickey, a Republican from Arkansas, said he has regrets. ``I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all the time,'' he said.
The Congress owes the American people more, but this promise I can make. We are not going away. We are not abandoning this effort. We will not be silenced. We will not be inactive. We are not giving up.
Twelve years it took to pass the Brady bill, after the President of the United States was almost assassinated just a few miles from here and his Press Secretary, Jim Brady, was paralyzed. It took 12 years to pass, with the support of President Reagan, and we need to be prepared for that kind of marathon.
President Reagan famously said: ``Facts are stubborn things.'' We cannot deny the facts that drive this debate because laws do work. We come here every day with the presumption that what we do makes a difference, that the laws we pass make a difference. Gun violence prevention laws do work.
When the shooter at Sandy Hook had to change magazines, children succeeded in escaping. If he had been barred from having the assault weapon, had it been banned, unable to bring it to the site of that horrific tragedy, it might have made a difference.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time has expired.