(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) delivered a floor speech on the life and death of Erika Robinson, the 26-year-old victim of a mass shooting that occurred in October at a New Haven nightclub. In the speech, Blumenthal discussed how gun violence, a little more than a year after the Sandy Hook tragedy, continues to affect all communities – urban, suburban, and rural – and called again for Congress to pass laws to prevent such violence.
“We owe it to [Erika] and to her family that her legacy will be one of protecting others like her, protecting others across America, regardless of the neighborhood or the place in that neighborhood, whether it is downtown New Haven, an urban area, or Newtown, a suburban neighborhood. It should not matter where gun violence is a threat. We should eradicate it everywhere. And it should not matter who may be the victim of gun violence, what her background may be, her race, religion, anything about her. Every human being, every person in the United States of America, is deserving of protection that our society failed to give to this young woman,” Blumenthal said during the speech.
Video of Blumenthal’s remarks is here; full text of his speech is below.
“Over the weekend, the state of Connecticut and the country and the world commemorated with grief and continued pain the first-year anniversary of the tragic massacre in Newtown, and on the morning of Saturday, one year after the Newtown tragedy, I attended a church service, a beautiful, moving, powerful celebration of faith at the Saint Rose of Lima Church whose pastor, Monsignor Robert Weiss, has been a great friend to many in the community and such a source of strength and comfort.
“Later in the weekend, I visited with the family of Erika Robinson of West Haven, Connecticut, who was shot and killed at a nightclub in New Haven on October 26. This seemingly random act of violence left Erika dead and five other individuals injured by gunfire. I have spent months and have been grateful for the experience with the families of those victims in Newtown, and I was equally grateful to spend this time with Erika's family, Celeste and Greg Fulcher, at their home and I want to thank them for welcoming me to their home on that day.
“Erika Robinson was only 26 years old when she became a victim of gun violence, and she clearly was a person full of joy and life and goodness for all of her 26 years and including the day that she perished. She was building a business, a clothing line, and as her business grew, a local store started selling that line of [clothes], and those who knew her described her as hard working and driven, and she was compassionate. Most recently, she released a special collection in honor of the breast cancer awareness month. She had enormous potential, she did everything right, she played by the rules, she stayed out of trouble, and she had the support of her two loving parents, and she was on track to fulfill the American Dream. And now her life tragically has been reduced to a statistic unless we make sure that it is more than a statistic and that we work and fight to make her legacy one of helping to protect others, helping to prevent gun violence and take victims like her who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, as she was that night in New Haven, when a shooter who was illegally in possession of a firearm, in fact, apparently on bail, turning to take as a victim someone else in the crowd that evening in the nightclub, and she became a victim that night, inadvertently, unintentionally, and five others were wounded.
“I have her picture here. Erika was more than a statistic. She was a person. And part of her clothing line was this small card that she fashioned herself: ‘It's so regular for us to say you only live once, but do you deeply understand that it's real? What I am trying to say is be fearless. Do things you always wanted to do. Never let anyone hold you back. Enjoy this thing we call life while we can. People going to talk regardless, so be you. Forever, Erika Robinson.’ And may that legacy be forever. May that legacy be with us forever and inspire us to work as we have done on behalf of the families of Newtown and as we should be doing on behalf of the 10,000 other victims of gun violence since Newtown. And the victims are not only the victims who have perished among those 10,000. There are others who have been injured like the five who were injured that night when the shooter at that nightclub in New Haven was aiming for someone else and sprayed gunfire that killed Erika, took her as a casualty but also injured others severely and traumatized countless others who saw or watched or heard what went on in that nightclub that night, an establishment that was legally licensed by the state of Connecticut, legally licensed to entertain people and charge for their being there, an establishment that was the last place Erika Robinson knew.
“Such a promising young woman at the wrong place at the wrong time, a woman who could have contributed so much to New Haven, to Connecticut, to our country. A tragic loss for her family that continues to honor her courage, and strength, and a tragic loss for all of us, and for the thousands of people who came to her funeral because she had already in those young 26 years, already touched so many lives. We owe it to her and to her family that her legacy will be one of protecting others like her, protecting others across America, regardless of the neighborhood or the place in that neighborhood, whether it is downtown New Haven, an urban area, or Newtown, a suburban neighborhood. It should not matter where gun violence is a threat. We should eradicate it everywhere. And it should not matter who may be the victim of gun violence, what her background may be, her race, religion, anything about her. Every human being, every person in the United States of America, is deserving of protection that our society failed to give to this young woman.
“We do a great disservice to our nation when we fail to honor those individuals who may not be in the headlines, who may not be from neighborhoods that we know but others that are unfamiliar to us. And we owe it to ourselves, not just to Erika and her family, but to ourselves as a nation to do better and to make America safer. She deserved better from the greatest country in the history of the world, and we, as citizens of that country, deserve better and have an obligation to do better. And so we will, I hope, leave a legacy for her in her name that speaks to a safer, better America.
“Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor.”