Blumenthal “Confident” Of Vote On Gun Violence Measures: Delivers Floor Speeches On Newtown And Federal Efforts To Reduce Gun Violence

(Washington, D.C.)—In two speeches on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) expressed confidence that the Senate would vote on common sense gun safety measures. In his speeches, Blumenthal addressed the tragedy in Newtown and the more than 3,000 victims of gun violence since Newtown, urging the adoption of sensible measures, including national criminal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, improvements to school safety and a federal ban on illegal gun trafficking.

He stated: “The majority of Americans want a vote, and they want action from this body. And we need to keep faith with them but also with the victims-- the victims who should not be forgotten. The Connecticut effect is not going away. This resolve is not dissipating. We will keep faith with them.”

He further stated: “The families of Sandy Hook have shown tremendous courage and strength. Their resolve and resoluteness are an inspiration and a source of strength to all of us who have spent time with them, who have come to know them, the privilege of knowing them. They've come here to talk about something no one would want to talk about, and they've done it so that no mother, no father, no husband, no wife ever has to again experience the unspeakable and unimaginable horror and tragedy that has befallen them. We owe it to them to vote on this measure. I'm confident there will be a vote. I'm proud to offer this measure banning high-capacity magazines to reduce the scourge of gun violence. There is no turning back, as Nicole Hockley has said so eloquently. There is no turning back from a proposal to ban high-capacity magazines.”

In his afternoon speech he stated: “We are on the cusp of success in the critical first step, and I am increasingly hopeful -- in fact, I’m confident -- that we will have a vote in this body on gun safety measures. We will have a vote in the United States Senate to impose sensible and commonsense measures to stop gun violence. We will have a vote in the Senate in a matter of days that will enable America to hold accountable its elected representatives here on this floor in the Senate for measures that will stop gun violence in this country that has killed 3,000 or more people since Newtown.”


The text of the two speeches is below.

First Speech:

Thank you and I want to congratulate and thank my colleague from Connecticut, Senator Murphy, on his profoundly eloquent and powerful statement to our colleagues and join him in calling attention to the horrific tragedy that has brought us to this point in the debate on gun violence. His very eloquent and powerful summary of our losses, I think, is a way to begin a potential turning point after Newtown has given us a call to action. Newtown is a tipping point in this debate, and my colleague from Connecticut and I have spent literally days and weeks with that community and have seen the courage and strength that they have brought to this town and to our colleagues, because they have been meeting with our colleagues and they are indeed here today.

Benjamin Andrew Wheeler who was six years old, his father David is here today. Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, age six, her mother Nelba and her father Jimmy are here today. Dylan Hockley, age 6, his mother Nicole is here. Daniel Barden, age 7, his mother and father are here. Jesse Lewis, ages 6, his father Neil is here. Mary Sherlach, one of the six educators, one of the six heroic educators, her husband is here today.

We can draw inspiration not only from the memories of those children and great educators who were killed here but from their strength and resilience and resolve in coming to the halls of this building, meeting with our colleagues indeed at this very moment they are with one of our colleagues, looking him in the eyes and saying to him, how can you not approve a bill that stops illegal trafficking, strengthens school safety, and imposes a requirement for criminal background checks? How can you not stop assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that were integral to that killing in Newtown? How can you not do something about gun violence that has caused more than 3,000 deaths since then? How can you not allow a vote? How can you deprive the American people of a vote on a measure that is so essential to their safety, their well-being, the futures of their children, and their communities?

As the President of the United States has said so eloquently and his leadership has been so important to this cause, the victims of Newtown, of Tucson, Aurora, Virginia Tech, they deserve a vote. And the likelihood of a vote has been increased by the leadership of my colleagues, Senator Schumer, Senator Manchin, Senator Toomey, who have worked hard to bring us together to a very promising and profoundly constructive turning point in this process. And I want to thank also our leader, Senator Harry Reid for his determination and resolve.

On the morning of December 14, parents throughout Connecticut and Newtown and Sandy Hook brought their children to school. Thinking of the rest their days. When they would have play dates and snack breaks, holiday parties, Christmas and Hanukkah present wrapping, paper angels, gingerbread, songs and poems. Those were the memories. And the futures that they brought with them. Just hours later, I was at Sandy Hook as 20 families of those children emerged from a firehouse, and I will never forget the cries of pain and grief that I saw on that day. I went there as a public official because I felt a responsibility to be there. But what I saw was through the eyes of a parent, as all America did on that day. And I saw the families also of six heroic educators who perished trying to save their children. Those sights and sounds changed America. We are different today than we were before Sandy Hook. This problem is with us, the problem of gun violence is the same problem that has existed for decades, but we are different. Because we know we can and must do something about it.

There was evil that day in Sandy Hook but there was also great goodness. The goodness of the first responders who stopped the shooting through their bravery when they appeared at the school, the shooter turned the gun on himself. They saved lives. The knowledge and courage and bravery of the clergy. Father Bob, Monsignor Robert Weiss, who that evening conducted a vigil that we attended when many resolved to light candles instead of curse the darkness. The greatness of leadership demonstrated by many of our public officials beginning with Pat Llodra the First Selectwoman of Newtown, the legislators who passed in Connecticut a measure that will provide a model for the country in attacking the problem of gun violence and the leadership of our governor, Dannel Malloy. And, of course, the great goodness of the educators who threw themselves at bullets, cradled young people seeking to save them, heroically gave their lives. Their models of courage and leadership should inspire us at this critical moment. They should inspire us to think better and do better and resolve that we will not let this moment pass, we will seize this opportunity and we will demonstrate the kind of leadership that the majority of Americans expect and deserve and need at this point.

The majority of Americans want commonsense measures to stop gun violence. The majority of Americans want a vote, and they want action from this body. And we need to keep faith with them but also with the victims. The victims who should not be forgotten, the Connecticut effect is not going away. This resolve is not dissipating. We will keep faith with them.

Out of that tragedy, the unspeakable loss, the unimaginable horror of that day and the days since then and the days to come, we resolve that this country will be better and safer. And so as we begin this debate as colleagues of ours at this moment announce a very promising compromise that may lead us forward, provide us with a path toward bipartisan action, and it should be bipartisan, there is nothing Republican or Democrat about law enforcement or about law enforcement saving people's lives. We should resolve to go forward as one country. I've been working on this issue for many years. I helped to author and support Connecticut’s first assault weapon ban in the early 1990's. I went to court to defend it when it was challenged constitutionally, argued in the trial and then in the state supreme court to uphold our law. I have worked with law enforcement colleagues for three decades. And I know that they support these measures. Our state and local police, our prosecutors around the country support a ban on illegal trafficking. They support a national background check system. They support school safety and they support bans on military-style weapons that are simply designed to kill and maim innocent people and they support a ban on high-capacity magazines because they know, those are the weapons of war. They enable criminals to outgun them. They put their lives at risk. And so I listened to my colleagues in law enforcement who tell me we need to do something about gun violence. I listen to the people of Newtown who say can't we do something about the guns? And I respect the rights of gun owners, the second amendment is the law of the land, and none of these proposals would take guns out of the hands of responsible and lawful gun owners. But there are some people who should not have them.

There are some guns that should not be in use, and there are some weapons of war, high-capacity magazines, that should not be sold in this country. In half of the mass killings, high-capacity magazines enabled the shooting that occurred so rapidly and so lethally. In Newtown, the changing of a magazine by the shooter enabled children to escape. In Tucson the killing of a 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor, by the 13th bullet, would not have happened if that magazine had been limited to ten rounds, because the shooter was tackled as he tried to change magazines. The high-capacity magazines enabled Adam Lanza to fire 154 bullets in five minutes. So these kinds of commonsense measures may not prevent all of these tragedies. They may not enable us to stop all of the 3,000 killings that have occurred since Newtown. We can't look back and say for a certainty that Newtown wouldn't have occurred if these measures had been in place, but the likelihood would have been reduced, some or all of those children might be alive today, some of those heroic educators could be in their classrooms now. And the challenge here is to save lives, to do something to stop the carnage and killing on our streets, in our neighborhoods, in communities like Newtown, a quintessential New England town. If it could happen in Newtown, it can happen anywhere in America.

As we go forward in this debate, I hope that we will listen to those brave and resilient and resolved families that are here today. Listen to them when they say to us that we must keep faith. Listen to Nicole Hockley and what she said when the president of the United States visited Connecticut just a couple of days ago. She said "but now there is no going back for me. There is no way. If you want to protect your children, if you want to avoid this loss, you will not turn away either." I ask my colleagues, let us face this reality, let us not turn away. Let us resolve to go forward and keep faith with the children and the educators who by their example provide us with an enormous and historic opportunity to make America safer and better. The nation that we love, the nation that we all believe is the greatest the history of the world and will be greater still after we move forward to make it safer and better.

Second Speech:

Thank you, Madam President. I'm honored to stand again here on the floor of the Senate, as I will be doing along with my colleague, Senator Murphy, and others who are allied in this effort to make America safer and to stop the scourge of gun violence that has plagued this country for decades and has been dramatized so horrifically and tragically by the nightmarish, unspeakable tragedy that occurred in Newtown. I stand here on behalf of the families but they are speaking much more eloquently and powerfully than I could ever do, as they go around to the offices of my colleagues and look them in the face and say, "How could you not favor a ban on illegal trafficking and straw purchasers?" "How could you not support strengthening school safety? " "How could you not favor a national criminal background check?" As one police chief told me, a national background check makes sure that we do not put criminals on the honor system.

Without a criminal background check, criminals are on an honor system to not buy weapons. What kind of a guarantee of safety would that be? And how could you not be in favor of banning the kind of weapon that killed the children and educators of Newtown or the high-capacity magazine that enabled and facilitated that killing to take place? 154 bullets fired in five minutes, tearing apart those beautiful, innocent children. And six great educators who perished trying to save them.

We are on the cusp of success in the critical first step, and I am increasingly hopeful -- in fact, I’m confident -- that we will have a vote in this body on gun safety measures. We will have a vote in the United States Senate to impose sensible and commonsense measures to stop gun violence. We will have a vote in the Senate in a matter of days that will enable America to hold accountable its elected representatives here on this floor in the Senate for measures that will stop gun violence in this country that has killed 3,000 or more people since Newtown. The epidemic of gun violence is stoppable and we will have a vote in this body that makes sure all of us are held to answer to the American people. The majority of the American people favor these measures. 90% or more say they want a national criminal background check. Their voice deserves a vote, and I am confident that we will have it.

I am confident in part because of the bipartisan compromise that has been announced today. I'm going through the details, listening to my colleagues in law enforcement, the mayors and others who have been so responsible and resolute in working over years and decades for these kinds of measures. And I’m listening to the families of Newtown. And we will make sure that this compromise vindicates and upholds the vital law enforcement and safety interests that these measures are designed to vindicate and uphold. And I am confident that this compromise is a positive and constructive step toward our having a vote, ending unlimited debate on this bill, achieving cloture, stopping a filibuster, as we have a responsibility to do.

And I want to focus for the moment on one aspect of these measures that I consider critically important. A ban on high-capacity [ma ]magazines -- all magazines, all clips that hold more than ten bullets -- that I will be introducing on behalf of Senator Lautenberg and working with Senator Feinstein and others to make sure this measure has a vote, whether it's as an amendment or a separate bill. I want to thank Senator Lautenberg for his leadership on this issue. He has championed it here for some time and I will be working with him and others to make sure that this measure that I have introduced has a vote and my colleague, Senator Murphy, will be working with me in this effort.

The statistics show the terrible impact of high-capacity magazines. A recent study of 62 mass shooting since 1982 showed that half involved high-capacity magazines. Statistics also show that bans on high-capacity magazines actually work. The 1994 ban on these devices reduced their use dramatically. A study of gun violence in Virginia showed that just 10% of guns recovered by police in 2004 used high-capacity magazines, but after the ban was allowed to sunset, the prevalence of high-capacity magazines more than doubled. Garen Wintemute, head of the violence prevention research program at the University of California at Davis School of Medicine said -- and I’m quoting -- "I was skeptical that the ban would be effective and I was wrong." He said that the database analysis offers about as clear an example -- and I’m quoting -- "about as clear an example as we could ask of evidence that the ban was working." And the limitation that I am proposing, that I will be working with Senator Lautenberg and Senator Feinstein and Senator Murphy [and Senator Schumer] and others who've championed this cause, would be even more effective because unlike the 1994 law, it will prohibit imports of high-capacity magazines, not just production here but imports of these high-capacity [ma ]magazines. More than ten rounds, we need to say no.

We also have to implement a buyback program for the existing high-capacity magazines in use and circulation today. The proposal that I’m advocating allows for better grant funding to be used for exactly that purpose. It doesn't require, doesn't mandate that owners of high-capacity magazines participate in a buyback program but it gives them that option. And over time, this measure will reduce the number of high-capacity magazines out there. The provision that I’m spearheading was part of legislation actually offered by Senator Feinstein in the Judiciary Committee, approved by that committee on March 14. It's supported by a long list of mayors as well as organizations representing law enforcement and I’d like to include that list, if I may, without objection, in the record, Madam President. It's supported as well by educators, the civil rights community, health care providers and others. It is a proposal that is eminently sensible, reasonable. It's a matter of common sense. A majority of Americans have consistently supported a ban on high-capacity magazines. A poll in January of this year showed that 65% of Americans, including 55% of gun owners, support such a ban.

But the most powerful argument for a ban on high-capacity magazines comes from the experience of Newtown, where the changing of magazines enabled children to escape. When the shooter changed magazines, the time allowed children to evade his nightmarish slaughter. In Tucson, we know from Captain Mark Kelley, who testified before the Judiciary Committee, husband of Gabby Giffords, that when the shooter was forced to change magazines that enabled spectators, bystanders to tackle the him. If there had been only ten rounds in that magazine that he was using, Christina-Taylor Green, shot by the 13th bullet, would be alive today. We know that high-capacity magazines enable and facilitate these mass killings. They don't cause them. They don't compel them. They enable them. High-capacity magazines allowed Adam Lanza to fire more than 150 rounds of ammunition in five minutes. And we know from men and women who have lost loved ones that these devices are part of these attacks too often.

Bill Sherlach, the husband of Mary Sherlach and who has come to Washington this week to speak out against gun violence, has this to say about high-capacity magazines. And his wife Mary is with us in this picture today. Quote, "it's just simple arithmetic. If you have to change magazines 15 times instead of 5 times, you have three times as many incidents as where something could jam, something could be bobbled. You increase the time for intervention. You increase the time frame where kids can get out, and there's 11 kids out there today that are still running around on the playground pretty much now at lunch time." end of quote. Another Sandy Hook family member with us today, Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan Hockley said the following -- quote -- "we looked at the search warrants and know that the shooter left the smaller-capacity magazines at home. That was a choice that the shooter made. He knew that the larger-capacity magazines were more lethal." End of quote.

The fact is Adam Lanza had smaller-capacity magazines that were found in his home at the time a search was conducted. He left those behind. He used the 30-round clips. He brought with him the 30-round magazines, three of them for that AR-15 because he knew he could fire more bullets more rapidly more lethally with a 30-round clip. David Wheeler, who is also here today and is the father of Benjamin Andrew Wheeler, said the following -- quote -- "the bullets you can get out the end of that gun in the least amount of time, that is the single area that I believe affects lethality and the size of the magazine placed in that weapon is a direct contributor to that, a direct contributor to that factor. There is a place for 30-round magazines. In the military, on the battlefield." End of quote.

The families of Sandy Hook have shown tremendous courage and strength. Their resolve and resoluteness are an inspiration and a source of strength to all of us who have spent time with them, who have come to know them, the privilege of knowing them. They've come here to talk about something no one would want to talk about, and they've done it so that no mother, no father, no husband, no wife ever has to again experience the unspeakable and unimaginable horror and tragedy that has befallen them. We owe it to them to vote on this measure. I'm confident there will be a vote. I'm proud to offer this measure banning high-capacity magazines to reduce the scourge of gun violence. There is no turning back, as Nicole Hockley has said so eloquently. There is no turning back from a proposal to ban high-capacity magazines.


###

Press Contact

Kamara Jones (202) 224-0309
kamara_jones@blumenthal.senate.gov