[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke on the Senate Floor this afternoon to mark the eighth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
“We went to Sandy Hook, and what we saw was unspeakable -- grief, pain, anguish -- that still haunts me. And what I saw that afternoon will stay with me not just as a source of grief and pain, but also as a cry for action, as an undeniable mandate for action to honor with action those beautiful lives, to honor them not just with words, speeches, rhetoric, but with real action,” Blumenthal said. “And for all of us, random acts of kindness are within our reach. Those acts of kindness to commemorate the gentle beauty and grace and dignity, the love and laughter, the futures that were lost. That is not just an expression of pain and grief. It is a moral imperative.”
“Our lives have never been the same since Sandy Hook, but in the wake of that tragedy as well as Parkland, Las Vegas, Charleston, El Paso, Orlando and Pittsburgh and countless others – mass shootings, individual deaths – there has grown a movement, and it is a movement led by young people, by people who care about this cause without partisan politics,” Blumenthal continued.
“It is a new generation of leaders. It is a movement born of that grief and pain and anger. The fury of knowing that democracy is not working, the tenacity born of the injustice of those deaths and injuries and trauma.”
“They are fighting to make sure that what happened at Sandy Hook or any of those other places never happens again. It is a new class of heroes, and their time is now.”
The full transcript of Blumenthal’s remarks, as delivered, is copied below:
One of the great honors of my life has been to know and cherish the friendship of the wonderful parents and loved ones of those twenty beautiful children and six great educators that perished eight years ago today. And I have been proud to work with Senator Murphy, a true champion of stopping gun violence, in our efforts over these last eight years.
That day began for them as it has done for all of us as parents, for me as a parent of four, for Senator Murphy as a dad of two: making breakfast, dropping off kids, heading to work. Among the beautiful holiday ornaments that decorated Newtown and Sandy Hook on that day, it was a normal day – until it wasn't.
It was a normal day until those minutes when life changed irreparably for those parents and loves ones and for us. Life would never be the same again. Yes, I had championed the cause of gun violence prevention for years before that day. As state Attorney General, I began lawsuits, I supported the cause of banning the assault weapon in Connecticut and defending that ban in our state courts. But that day changed us forever.
We went to Sandy Hook, and what we saw was unspeakable – grief, pain, anguish, that still haunts me. And what I saw that afternoon will stay with me not just as a source of grief and pain, but also as a cry for action, as an undeniable mandate for action to honor with action those beautiful lives, to honor them not just with words, speeches, rhetoric, but with real action. And for all of us, random acts of kindness are within our reach. Those acts of kindness to commemorate the gentle beauty and grace and dignity, the love and laughter, the futures that were lost. That is not just an expression of pain and grief. It is a moral imperative.
With grief comes trauma, lifelong scars that never fade. But what I saw in those hours after that brutal, unimaginable massacre was also unspeakable goodness. The first responders who came and saw the carnage that brought tears to their eyes. The fire and police service, the community leaders, the men and women of faith – Father Bob Weiss, now Monsignor, who brought us together that evening in St. Rose of Lima church, when the grief and pain were raw, as raw as the cold of that winter night. And so many came. In fact, so many that they couldn't fit in the church and heard it by loud speaker outside.
And I said, the world is watching, and in fact the world watched with awe, because Sandy Hook came to show the resilience and courage and strength of those families who have championed this cause of preventing gun violence, but also launched foundations and philanthropic efforts in the names and memories of their children to do good, to change lives for the better.
They are resilient and strong like Newtown is resilient and strong. And this morning in a vigil done virtually led by Connecticut Against Gun Violence, we celebrated the lives not only of those twenty beautiful children and six great educators, but everyone in Connecticut over the past year who has died from gun violence because no community is immune from it. It strikes every neighborhood and area of our state and of our country.
And so honoring with action is something that we must do in this body. And one of the memories that also haunts me is of the day when we came within a few votes of passing a universal background check bill – almost fifty-five votes, but not enough to reach sixty. A majority of the Senate but not enough for cloture. And from that gallery, literally, came the shout: shame!
Indeed, shame. Shame on us in the United States Senate for being complicit in the continuing deaths of thousands over these past eight years, thousands that could have been prevented, thousands that have our culpability. Shame on us for failing to honor with action and to move forward on universal background checks and emergency orders, emergency risk protection orders. Those two steps keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who would do harm to themselves through suicide, as well as to others in the shootings that take place on our streets, in our neighborhoods.
Connecticut has led the way on those measures and others. Ethan's Law for safe storage. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Ghost gun bans and other measures that essentially make our neighborhoods and lives safer. But even Connecticut, with the strongest gun measures in the country, is no safer than any state with the weakest because guns have no respect for state boundaries. They cross state lines. And the crime guns that come into Connecticut are the source of those shootings that kill our people. And so, there are simple, straightforward steps that we can take, commonsense measures, including stopping the near complete unprecedented immunity of gun manufacturers from any legal responsibility and making sure that they bear liability for the deaths that they cause.
Our lives have never been the same since Sandy Hook, but in the wake of that tragedy as well as Parkland, Las Vegas, Charleston, El Paso, Orlando and Pittsburgh and countless others – mass shootings, individual deaths – there has grown a movement, and it is a movement led by young people, by people who care about this cause without partisan politics. It is a new generation of leaders. It is a movement born of that grief and pain and anger. The fury of knowing that democracy is not working, the tenacity born of the injustice of those deaths and injuries and trauma.
They are fighting to make sure that what happened at Sandy Hook or any of those other places never happens again. It is a new class of heroes, and their time is now. Their organizations are diverse. Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, March for Our Lives, Giffords, Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, Sandy Hook Promise are just a few of them, and they are a movement and they are causing a change in the consciousness in America so that now more than ninety percent of Americans support universal background checks. A comparable number support emergency risk protection orders known as red flag statutes. Seventeen states now have them, an increase substantially after Parkland.
And they are not alone. They're joined by survivors from countless communities, too many communities. They're joined by law enforcement officials, first responders, and emergency room nurses and doctors who have the firsthand education about what gun violence does to a human body and a human mind. And they are joined also by advocates and activists, community leaders from every community across the country because this epidemic affects everyone. They are the true leaders of this movement, and I'm proud to stand with them today, as I do every day.
My hope is that a new Congress will break this complicity and that we will move forward. That a new Congress will break the inaction, and that a new president will change the dynamic not only in this Congress, but in the country, and take advantage of the historic opportunity we have.
With a new administration, we have not only this momentous opportunity, but also a moral imperative. We have that opportunity to enact strong commonsense gun violence prevention measures. And in addition, although no substitute for legislative action, strong executive action to enhance the effectiveness of background checks, to stop the spread of ghost guns, to take other measures that are within the power of the president alone and to make sure that we explore and use every possible opportunity. And the states will continue acting alone if the federal government fails to join them. States like Connecticut and others around the country who want to protect their citizens will continue to be proactive.
We mark this painful anniversary with renewed resolve. Resolve to continue to honor with positive action those whose lives were lost at Sandy Hook, but also to redouble our efforts to educate and enlist our fellow citizens. It's long past time. Eight years is a long time, much too long for this inaction. Our hearts still ache. Our anger still burns. Our grief and pain are still there. For those families, they will never go away.
But make no mistake, this pandemic is no excuse for inaction. If anything, COVID-19 has raised the number of gun purchases and increased the numbers of guns, posing dangers in our neighborhoods. It has heightened the stress and anxiety of people who might use those guns in incidents of domestic violence. It has expanded the jeopardy of suicide and self-destructive behavior. We have no excuse for inaction because of the pandemic. We have every reason to feel a greater sense of urgency now, in the midst of this pandemic to stop the epidemic of gun violence. But let us draw from the strength and fortitude of these brave families and loved ones not only in Sandy Hook, but survivors and loved ones everywhere, and say finally, boldly, unapologetically: enough is enough.
Enough is enough.