“The members who vote against these measures are complicit in the tragedies that follow,” said Blumenthal
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate Floor today urging his colleagues to take urgent action to stop America’s gun violence epidemic. Following the tragic shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan that took the lives of four students, Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) in calling for the Senate to pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, which cleared the House of Representatives in March.
“Again and again and again, this tragedy has been repeated in schools across our country. We are here again in grief and sorrow for the lives taken by gun violence, needlessly and violently,” said Blumenthal. “This normal cannot be normalized. It cannot be made the new normal. The banality of evil cannot be taken for granted.”
Just 12 days ahead of the ninth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Blumenthal urged his colleagues to take action that can and will save lives. In addition to universal background checks, Blumenthal also called for passage of “red flag” or Extreme Risk Protection Order laws, safe storage laws such as a federal version of Connecticut’s Ethan’s Law, and a repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) which grants the gun industry sweeping immunity for negligence and disregard for public safety.
“There is no rational explanation, none when the vast majority of American people, gun owners as well as N.R.A. members, all background, all walks of life, all geographic areas, all demographic areas support this measure,” Blumenthal said.
“The American people should call us to account for our failure to act today, our complicity in those deaths. This Congress is complicit. The members who vote against these measures are complicit in the tragedies that follow.”
The video of Blumenthal’s remarks is available here and the full transcript is copied below.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT): Thanks, Mr. President. I wish I could end this exchange on a hopeful note. I've come here so many times wishing that an exchange like this one could lead to progress. And we've offered again and again and again the Senator from Connecticut on background checks, myself on red flag or emergency risk orders, on Ethan's Law on safe storage, on a myriad of proposals to sit down with our colleagues and engage in the kind of constructive and positive dialogue that Senator Grassley has suggested, and they have yielded nothing. And the reason they've yielded nothing is essentially that, unfortunately our Republican colleagues remain in the grip of a lobby -- the gun lobby, which is waning in its impact across the country but still maintains its grip in this chamber. That's the grip we need to break. That's the grip that will be broken through the democratic process if the American people have their way.
And the American people are changing in their view. In fact, there is now a political movement. It is composed of the young people, March for Our Lives, who suffered in Parkland, Florida, when they saw the same kind of shooting and suffered the same kind of trauma that those students did in Oakland County, Michigan.
And again and again and again this tragedy has been repeated in schools across our country. We are here again in grief and sorrow for the lives taken by gun violence, needlessly and violently. Four young people Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Justin Shilling, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, shot multiple times as my colleague from Connecticut has described it in that video, among many others, trying to escape. Six other students and a teacher were injured and their community is reeling from this horror, a horror of blood and flesh and lives cut short forever.
And their loved ones have joined a club, as it has been called, a club nobody wants to join, nobody wants to be admitted. In just 12 days -- in just 12 days from now it will be the ninth anniversary of a tragedy whose survivors joined that club, the families of the Sandy Hook children, 20 beautiful, innocent children and six dedicated, courageous educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Whenever I talk about this subject in this chamber, I see them in the gallery. I see them in the gallery on the day that we failed. We failed by just a handful of votes to reach the 60 that we needed to pass a background check proposal. And one of them shouted, shame. Shame. And it was shameful and disgraceful that we failed to act on that day. Think of how many lives we could have saved. You know, in this body we talk endlessly and sometimes we act in a way that can affect real lives and real people. We could have saved real lives and real people on that day. Not all the lives lost to gun violence, the tens of thousands who have perished since then, but some of them. When you save one life, you save the world. That's an adage in my faith.
We had it within our grasp to save lives and to help save the world. But we failed then and again today we failed even with the impetus with that horror in our minds and before us played again and again and for me the voices of those survivors resonate their faces are forever with me as they will be for all who knew the survivors of the Oakland, Michigan tragedy. They've become friends, they have become almost members of my family, and they relive their own tragedy when they see what happened in these shootings.
And the trauma affects not just the children in that school on Tuesday, it affects children everywhere. Somebody said to me the other day, you know, the three best words in the English language these days, back to normal. We want to go back to normal after a year and a half of the pandemic, we want to go back to normal, put kids back in school, put teachers back in the classroom, back to normal.
We are back to normal in gun violence. In fact, we are worse than normal. We are back to normal with school shootings because kids are back in school. But the rate of gun violence has if anything explosively increased. This normal cannot be normalized. It cannot be made the new normal. The banality of evil cannot be taken for granted. The shame that that vote nine years ago brought to this body is a stain that will forever haunt us and haunts us ever more when we fail, as we did today, to provide real action.
And there isn't any panacea. My colleague from Connecticut is absolutely right. No single proposal is the solution. And there are others that we've advanced and tried to make a matter of bipartisan support. Senator Graham and I have worked on a red flag or emergency risk protection order statute that separates people from guns when they are dangerous to themselves or others, separates them when they are under a protective order and they buy those guns or when a family member knows they are about to commit or take their own lives, not to mention other people's lives. More than half of all the gun deaths in this country are suicide. We can save those lives.
A large number of these deaths occur when children are playing with guns in their own homes because the guns have been unsafely stored. Ethan Song was killed in Connecticut because a parent failed to safely store a gun. Ethan's Law requiring safe storage would save lives. Holding manufacturers accountable and depriving them of the sweetheart deal that led to PLCAA, giving them immunity from any legal accountability. Reversing that immunity would help to save lives in repealing PLCAA.
There are more than one proposal that we need to seriously consider if we're going to have the kind of dialogue that my colleague Senator Grassley suggested. But the simple fact is the House of Representatives did its job back in March when it passed that bipartisan legislation to expand background checks. We're trying to do our job today seeking unanimous consent from our colleagues to move forward on H.R. 8.
And there is no rational explanation, none when the vast majority of American people, gun owners as well as N.R.A. members, all background, all walks of life, all geographic areas, all demographic areas support this measure.
So back to normal. We're back to normal. We cannot tolerate this normal. And as we approach that ninth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and I recall that bleak day in December when we gathered at a firehouse with parents who were waiting to find out, waiting to know whether their children were still alive. No matter what the ages of our children -- I have four -- we can relive that moment in our own minds, in our own hearts, and we can see in this gallery those parents who came to speak truth to us, speak truth to power, and who will call us to account.
The American people should call us to account for our failure to act today, our complicity in those deaths. This Congress is complicit. The members who vote against these measures are complicit in the tragedies that follow.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.