tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN September 17, 2019 8:15pm-10:16pm EDT
the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: are we in a quorum call, mr. president? the presiding officer: we are not. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i thank my colleagues for their indulgence this evening, and for those of us -- those of you who help us keep this floor open. i will make some longer remarks later this evening, but while we have a short break in the floor waiting for senator brown to arrive, i wanted to say a word of appreciation to all of my colleagues who have decided to join us this evening on the floor. this is my first appearance here, to talk about the imperative of changing the nation's gun laws, recognizing that this number, 100 americans
killed by guns every single day, is not inevitable. almost every single one of these murders and suicides and accidental shootings is preventable. if we make different choices here on the floor of the united states senate, and our purpose tonight is to try to bring some consistency of effort to a case that we have been making for a very long time. and so i will be back here later this evening to walk through the case, as far as i see it, for universal background checks in particular, but also a host of other measures that are broadly popular amongst the american public. you know, the -- one point i will make right now is that this issue is really unique in american politics today. it is not a controversial issue out in america. it is only controversial here
inside the political process. in fact, there are very few matters in public life today that are, frankly, less controversial than this issue. when you go out and ask people if they support universal background checks, which is the measure that passed the house of representatives, by a 9-1 margin, they support universal background checks. there is almost nothing else in american politics today. i would endeavor to say there is nothing else in american politics today that is as popular as this measure, and yet it has this reputation of being a third rail of political discourse here in washington. and so i would simply encourage my colleagues to get out there and have conversations with your constituents, have conversations with members of your own party,
have conversations with gun owners, and you will find that there is a consistency of opinion, at least on a large number of pieces of legislation that are before this body. at the top of that list, universal background checks. i have had conversation over and over again, and then i will leave the floor to senator brown and return later, with supporters of the president, supporters of the second amendment, members of the n.r.a. in my state. i, of course, acquired a reputation as being a forceful and vocal advocate for stronger gun laws in this nation. the n.r.a. often targets me in their advertisements and their e-mails. so i will often be confronted by my constituents who will see me at a public event and come on a beeline over to me and start confronting me about my agenda to confiscate their weapons or to come and take away their
guns. of course i try to disabuse them of that notion, and as soon as i can, i get the conversation to background checks. i say listen, let me ask you a question. do you think that everybody who is buying a guillain-barre in this -- a gun in this country should have to go through a background check. almost invariably that individual who just moments ago was so confrontational with me about the issue of guns, their defense is dropped. they say well, yeah, of course i support that. of course everybody should get a background check before they buy a gun. i said you got one, right? i got one. it was three, four minutes long. that's not what i'm talking about. i object to all the other things, but background checks, of course i want background checks. gun owners support background checks by an 80% to 90% margin. n.r.a. members support it, polls suggest 75% to 80% of n.r.a. members support universal background checks. so this is just one of the least controversial issues that exists out there in the american public today. we're going to have a
conversation today about the efficacy of these measures, but we should remember that there are many times in which we get deluded into believing something is much more -- much more of a vexing political conversation than it truly is, and background checks is on that agenda. so, mr. president, i will yield the floor at this point and come back down later for longer remarks, but i'm glad to be joined this evening by senator brown of ohio. mr. brown: thank you. mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from ohio. mr. brown: thank you, mr. president. i also -- we're joined by senator casey of pennsylvania who has been a leader, as senator murphy has. senator murphy we look to every day in this body because he saw -- he saw this tragedy up close in the most vivid, awful ways. we appreciate how he has represented victims and people who might end up victims if we we -- victims. if we do this right, they won't
end up victims. madam president, first i ask unanimous consent that tonya sukom, the fellow from the minority staff on banking, housing, and urban affairs be granted floor permission until tuesday, december 31, and also to recognize drew martineau and abigail duggan and shubare figures. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. brown: thank you, mr. president. six weeks ago, on a sunday morning, connie and i woke up, checked our iphones, and immediately called out to each other and said my gosh, look what's happened in dayton. at 1:00 in the morning on that first saturday night in august, 1:00 sunday morning, a man, local man with an assault weapon walked into the oregon district in dayton as people were out
having fun that night and just opened fire. he killed his sister. he killed eight others. he wounded more than 20. he did all of this in the space of 32 seconds, fired 41 bullets, telling you the kind of gun it is. and the police heroically six police officers descended on him, shot him and killed him before he could walk into this nightclub where he would have probably killed 20 other people. i called mayor dan whaley that morning, probably 8:30. it was pretty incredible. this happened at 1:00 in the morning. i called her 8:30, seven and a half hours later. the first thing she said to me was i have gotten e-mails and texts and calls from several dozen, her words, several dozen mayors around the country who have had either to deal with this, as many had or have had situations where they have had gun violence and they just offered to help her in any way they can.
we know what happened. we know every time there is gun violence, every time there is a gun shooting, the first thing they say is my hearts and prayers are with the victims. how can you not say that? we all think that. then they say now is not the time to talk about it, as if they ever want to talk about it. and then they say we have to do something to fix -- we have to do something about mental health in this country. ask senator casey about medicaid and my efforts on medicaid. the people that sit on this side of the aisle, where the republicans sit here, they are the ones that stood at these desks, every one of these desks back a year ago all having health insurance paid for by the government, paid for by taxpayers and tried to talk away health insurance from millions and millions of americans. senator casey today told me 1.1 million people in pennsylvania now have health insurance because of the affordable care act. in my state where my daughter elizabeth brown is the council person in columbus, in my
state 900,000 people have insurance because of that. on this side of the aisle, every single one except for three, one of whom is passed away, except for three senators voted to take away the insurance to repeal the affordable care act. and then they have the gall to say we have to do more on mental health. if that had passed, if they had repealed the affordable care act, hundreds of thousands of pennsylvanians and ohioans wouldn't have had the mental health services that they are getting now. so spare me that whining, spare me that we want to take care of mental health issues. no, they don't. they just want to do the bidding of the n.r.a. mr. president, look down this aisle, look down this hall. right down this hall is senator mcconnell's office. i'm not going to say that lobbyists, gun lobbyists walk down that hall and walk into his office and hand him money, i don't think they do that, but i do know that until we break the addiction that donald trump and mitch mcconnell and most of the republicans, most of the people in this body, until we break their addiction to gun lobby money, campaign
contributions, we'll never solve this problem. so, mr. president, we heard that. that's what we heard the first day in dayton. my wife and i drove to dayton that afternoon. two days later, the president came to dayton. i spent some time -- i joined president trump at the bottom of air force one as he got off the plane. i stood with medicare whaley. we both looked president trump in the eye and said, mr. president, i hope you will call senator mcconnell and ask him to bring the senate back. this was in early august, the senate was out of session for five weeks. i hope you will ask senator mcconnell to bring the senate back into session and pass the house bill, the house bill that sets up something very simple, universal background checks. as senator murphy said, 90% of the american public supports background checks. you know, the only people that don't support background checks are professional lobbyists for the n.r.a. and people that sit over here. other than that, it's over 90%. a majority of gun owners in ohio
support universal background checks. a majority of republicans support universal background checks. a majority of n.r.a. members in ohio support universal background checks. the only people that don't are members of this body in that tiny group of n.r.a. professional lobbyists. it's not n.r.a. members that are stopping background checks from passing. it's that narrow group of millionaire n.r.a. highly paid professional lobbyists. that's why we can't pass it here. that's what we had happen. so mayor whaley and i asked president trump to pass it. he said i'm going to do big things, we're going to do big things and fix this. then we saw him later at the hospital. president trump went around the hospital with the first lady. they were kind, generous, and inpathetic, i believe -- and empathetic, i believe, with the patients that were there, the patients and the people that were injured and the family members. and then we met the police officers, the six heroic police officers. we thanked hem effusively, all of us, for their courage in
saving lives. then we walked out of the room. it was the governor and the other senator from ohio and the local congressman and a handful -- the mayor and i. i said to the president -- he said we're going to have the biggest awards ever. we're going to give them the biggest presidential medals ever made for these heroes. i said that's really good, mr. president, but you know what they would really like? what they would really like is for us to pass background checks and make their jobs a little easier so when they walk in, they're not ambushed by people with illegal guns. you know what the president said? he was going to do something then and then he talked to the n.r.a. and then he talked to the gun lobby. the same story. when i look down the hall, i don't expect -- it's late in the day but i don't expect to see gun lobbyists lining up and handing mitch mcconnell money. it's illegal. i don't think he does that in this body. until the voters or the congress or somehow we break the addiction to gun lobby money
that mitch mcconnell and donald trump and the majority party has, we can't solve this. this is just too important. as for every mass shooting that makes a headline, there are so many other americans whose lives are taken by gun violence. but don't get the same attention. this has to end. no more stagmatizing people with mental illness. we should stop stagmatizing people with mental illness. congress should stop taking orders from the n.r.a. and start acting to keep people safe. i'm close with this before senator casey speaks. the night of the shoot -- the next night, so the shooting was at 1:00 in the morning on a sunday. sunday night people gathered in the district, heart broken people, relatives, friends, community people, people who were shellshocked and felt awful about what happened to their city and those victims, gathered in the oregon district in dayton. the governor was there and the mayor was up front. one or two people started
yelling do something, do something. then more and more people joined in. they started chanting do something, do something. they were chanting it to local officials. they were chanting it so the governor heard it and maybe even some state legislators in ohio heard it. they were shouting loud enough in this body, mr. president, we should hear that shout, to do something. it starts by taking the bill that passed the house down the hall, bringing it to the senate floor, debating it, voting on it, passing reasonably -- passing strong, reasonable background checks. that's the step we need to take. there's simply no excuse for not doing it. mr. president, i yield the floor.
mr. casey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i rise tonight to speak about the issue that's been consuming a lot of our time and appropriately so, not only tonight but for many weeks since some of the tragedies of this summer starting in early august and continuing. but also an issue that's occupied the time of the american people over the course of not just weeks or months but years and even decades now. i want to thank our colleague from connecticut, senator murphy, for organizing this time to bring members of the senate
together. i want to thank my colleague from ohio, senator brown, the senior senator, for his words tonight, his passion about this issue. and his commitment to change. that should be a commitment that is shared by everyone here. but we'll be talking about what has not happened here as much as what has happened. when i think about this issue, the issue of gun violence which is -- it's an epidemic, it's also uniquely an american problem. no other country has this problem. in fact, america didn't have this problem for all of its history. it's depending on where you start the clock, it's years old if not a lot longer than that. but when i think about the issue and think about the debates we're having, sometimes we start with the names of communities and we unfortunately have them
memorized. so many communities are known for so much, so much that's positive about their culture, about their history, and about their future and the -- some of the great communities. but there are some communities that have all that but also have attached to their history i hope not for -- i hope not forever but certainly for a period of time that that city, that community was a place where an act of gun violence occurred that was of such a scale that the american people focused on that one community no a sustained period of time because of a mass shooting. of course, we should be remembering all of the examples on a night like tonight where it doesn't reach the level of a mass shooting by way of victims or carnage but also is a place that we should remember when one
person dies on a dark street in the middle of the night or a child is injured or in fact killed but it may not be counted as a mass shooting. but you know all the names now. just this summer we've added several more as everyone knows. i won't go through all the events, these horrific tragic events, but we -- it's important to remember the names of the communities and then of course i want to talk about some of the people. but whether it's el paso or dayton or odessa-midland, many years ago it was columbine, it was new town, connecticut, virginia tech, las vegas, parkland, aurora, colorado, orlando, two more recent gilroy, california and virginia beach.
and i've left a lot off. that's just a handful in the last number of years. so we think about this issue in terms of those who were lost or those whose lives have been irreparably damaged. sometimes irreparably damaged, permanently damaged because of the injury, an injury that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. but of course you don't have to be physically injured to sustain an injury by way of the impact on your psyche. i can't even imagine, can't even begin to imagine nor can most people imagine the horror of being anywhere near a mass shooting. so tonight we remember those victims and their families in chose communities. we also remember the individual people who were lost, the individual families who were
affected. mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, children in so many of these instances, children are directly affected or indirectly but that indirect effect means that they lost a parent or they lost a sibling or they lost something in that moment that they will be permanently scared by for the rest of their lives. i guess i want to focus on two groups of people tonight. we could spend hours talking about so many americans. one will be parochial in the sense that it's about my home state of pennsylvania and the other will be at the other end of the age scale about children who are lost in december of 2012. i'll start with the most -- the most recent for pennsylvania. we've had obviously example
after example, too many to count, hundreds and hundreds over the last couple of years where someone was killed or injured. we thankfully have not had multiple mass shootings but just a couple of weeks ago in the city of philadelphia on about the same day that a guy was gunned down in philadelphia, there was a standoff in a philadelphia neighborhood where one gunman because of the power of his weapon and because of the advantage he had of being behind closed doors, he was able to hold off part of a police force because he was shooting indiscriminately with a high powered weapon. thankfully those six police officers that were injured, the injuries turned out not to be serious and the police officers
were released virtually on the same day. so we were blessed on that day. but right across the street, a very narrow street, there was a child care center that could have been the scene of horrific carnage if it had gone another way. thankfully those children in that child care center that was only -- it wasn't a block away. it wasn't half a block away. it was barely yards and feet away, less than the width of this chamber that child care center was where that shooter was stationed. but i'll start with folks who were worshiping in the tree of life synagogue on a saturday in october 2018. i won't go through all the details but i think everyone by now knows what happened there. the worst act of violence
against the jewish community in american history that we know of. in this case these were the victims. my wife, therese, was kind enough to suggest to me when you have a list or something you want to remember an event by, you should probably frame it or preserve it in some fashion. so she was kind enough to help me get this framed. what i'm holding is -- you can't see it from a distance but it's just a framed card with names f the victims. i'll read what it says so you know what i'm talking about. at the top of this card -- it can from a newspaper, the pittsburgh post gazette. the date is october 29, 2018. they put this on the front page of the paper. all it says is victims of the synagogue shooting and then it lists each individual and their ages. joyce feinberg, 75.
richard gottfried, 65. rose mallinger, 97. jerry rabinowitz, 66. cecil rosenthal, 59. david rosenthal, 54. bernice simon, 84. sylvan simon, 86. daniel stein, 71. melvin wax, 87, and irving younger, 69. so this was a group of pittsburghers worshiping on the saab both -- saab both -- sabbath in a synagogue. a hate-filled person came into that synagogue intent by way of things he said and intent by way of the weapons he had and the ammunition he had, intent on
killing as many members of that congregation as possible. so basically a congregation where the victims were ages 54 to 97. so that was one incident in my home state. seems like every state has a day like that where a community is torn apart. so those folks were obviously at the other end of the age scale. how about folks a lot younger. this just happens to be a matted copy of the page in "the wall street journal" from december of 2012 after the new town, connecticut shooting that we all know unfortunately so much about. sandy hook elementary school. what "the wall street journal" did -- and this is dated december 17, 2012, but "the wall
street journal" put a picture of each child with their name and their age and a little vignette about their young life. i won't go through all of them tonight. i've referred to them in the past. and not every child had a picture ready at the time of this publication these children, 20 children and six adults, i'm sorry. there are seven adults listed here. but these two children are part of what we're talking about, the carnage that has enveloped our country over these last number of years. i want to read their names tonight, and then i want to get to the legislation. charlotte bacon, 6, age 6. daniel bardin, age 7. olivia engle, 6.
josephine gaye, 7. anna marquez green, 6. katherine v. hubbard, 6. jessie lewis, 6. grace mcdonnell, 7. emily parker, 6. noah posner, 6. caroline pravedy, 6. jessica rakos, 6. madeleine f.hassau, 6. chase kowalski, 7. james matioli, 6. and then several children that didn't have pictures at the time of this publication for "the wall street journal." dylan hockley, 6. jack pinto, 6. aviel richmond, 6. benjamin wheeler, 6.
and allison n. wyatt, age 6. so when we talk about what we should do here, what we must do, we have to remember more than just a list of communities, which in a sense is about a place, it's about geography. we also have to remember those who are lost. and i think we have to begin to ask ourselves some really fundamental questions, maybe in ways we don't often do, even if this chamber, even in this body, which is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world. this is a place where we should ask some of the questions that many of us have been asking. is it too much to ask when we remember what those children
suffered and what their families suffered? is it too much to ask that we can pass a background check bill? that as senator brown and so many others have noted is supported by more than 90% of the american people? is that too much of a lift for the united states senate to pass just one bill, and not a bill that's going to solve all the problems. we know that. nobody is arguing that. but we know a recent example where a background check bill might have been the difference between the gunman having a weapon and willing a number of americans or not. that was odessa and midland. we have to do a lot more than background checks, but let's start with what is in front of us. you have a piece of legislation that has been sitting here for over 200 days.
over 200 days. it came over from the house, h.r. 8. h.r. 8 is the best -- in my judgment, the best background check bill we have. there are other proposals, and we should debate them. but is it too much of a lift to say that we're going to debate and vote on h.r. 8, which closes the loopholes on these background checks and i think would do the best job of any proposal? and then if someone has another proposal -- i know that senator manchin, senator toomey have a proposal -- let's debate that and vote on that, too. if there is a third proposal, let's debate and vote on that. let's get it right. or at least give the american people a chance to see whether or not this legislative body, this senate reflects the will of the american people, the
overwhelming percentage of american people -- the american people will support background checks. we should also make sure that there was an opportunity to debate on an extreme risk protection order act, or another version of that. let's -- let's make sure that that happens. i don't think we're asking the majority leader to take on a challenge that he hasn't already committed to. what i heard majority leader mcconnell say in august is that when we came back here, we were going to debate and vote on at least those two measures. i think that was a pretty clear promise. and if we did that, would every problem be solved? no. would gun violence be substantially reduced in a matter of weeks or months? no, no one is making that claim. but at least, at least we could
say that we made some progress in reducing that likelihood of greater gun violence. but i think the bigger question here is that we have to ask over and over again until we act or at least begin to act is is there nothing that we can do? because that's part of the argument by those who say no on background checks, those who say no on extreme risk protection orders, no on the limitation on the magazines, the number of bullets you can shoot at any one time. as senator brown referred to in dayton. in 32 seconds, 32 seconds, nine people killed. and i guess about 25 injured. in 32 seconds. the police officers got there faster than superman could get there. and that wasn't fast enough because of the power of the
weapon and because of the amount of ammunition. so there is nothing we can do about that, we're told. we're told over and over again here and around the country where disciples of this point of view have their time to debate, that there is nothing that the most powerful country in the history of the human race can do to make sure that that doesn't happen in another american city, or at least take action to reduce the likelihood that that would happen in another american city. so there's nothing, apparently, according to this argument that this great nation of ours can do to prevent someone in 32 seconds to kill nine people and injure i guess about 25.
what haunted me, among many things -- and i'm sure it haunted many americans at the time of the december, 2012, sandy hook elementary school newtown, connecticut, shooting, was that the evidence indicated, according to an nbc news report at the time that i was watching on my television at home in scranton, pennsylvania, watching that report, there was evidence that the killer, after killing 20 children and several adults, was moving to the next classroom and we know that hundreds of children were in that school. i don't know the exact number, but it wasn't just a school of 20 children. a lot more than 20 were in that school. so again, we have to -- taking this argument there is nothing
we can do except enforcing existing law. that's what we hear over and over again, can't do anything, have to enforce existing law. that's the argument. they have been making this argument for decades, okay? so based upon that argument, there is nothing we could have done in that instance either to prevent someone from killing 20 children or hundreds of children in one school. and then maybe several months later going to another school and killing hundreds of children. does anyone really believe that? that there is no law, no action you can take to at least reduce the likelihood that that won't happen in the united states of america? we don't believe that because we call ourselves americans. we've never had that attitude. think of our history. think of what happened in the last century if we had that
point of view. nothing we can do about this threat in europe. nothing we can do to advance medical research because we just have to accept the facts and try to nibble around the edges. no one really believes that. so that argument is getting pretty tired, that enforcement of existing law is the answer here. and this is a uniquely american problem. no country has this problem. and it's been building and building for years and decades. by inaction, we allow the problem to get a lot worse, and it is about as bad as it gets right now. huge numbers of americans now -- not like 5% or 8%. like 40% of americans now believe that they can be a
victim of gun violence. 40% of a country of over 300 million people believe that because of what they have seen, but, again, the answer here from one side over and over again is there's nothing we can do. as more and more people believe they could be a victim next. you saw the footage of -- or the news coverage of children going off to school at the start of this school year with their backpacks, with a protective shield like a kevlar shield. i'm not sure exactly what it is, but i saw the reports in a backpack. an american child has to go to school and have armor-plated backpacks in america. that's not happening anywhere
else. because their parents are worried about them going to school. now we have to worry about where you go to school, where you worship, where you go for entertainment, what public event do you not want to go to because the united states senate for years now -- we haven't voted on a series of gun bills in years. so i guess people should get used to being afraid and wondering if they will be next or their children will be next. in essence, what they're telling us on the other side when they say no to background checks, absolutely not, that's what they're saying, and no to any kind of action, what they're saying is the most powerful country in the world should surrender to this problem. that's what it is. it's surrendering to this problem, that there is nothing
that this country can do to make sure that you never have a full page of a newspaper with 20 children listed there ages 6 and 7 years old. that is not america. that's not who we are. or at least it's not who we claim to be. so i would say in conclusion -- i know i am well over my time -- mr. president, that the least we can do -- this isn't hard, guys -- is debate and vote. debate and vote. is that hard? not that strenuous. debate and vote on background checks. debate and vote on an extreme risk protection order. i would go further than that, but we don't have time for that tonight. but let's debate and vote. and we're not going to wait. why should we wait for the president to give us the high
sign about what he'll sign into law? this chamber should not wait for any other official. we should debate and vote and see where things are. the american people will sort it out after we vote, and they will know who is on the record voting which way, but at least let's give them something to indicate that we're americans, we don't surrender to problems. we don't surrender to big problems, we don't surrender to problems from an enemy, from a disease, and from an epidemic called gun violence. mr. president, i would yield the floor. mr. van hollen: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you, mr. president. i want to thank my friend and colleague from pennsylvania for his leadership on this issue and his very clear remarks and call
to action. also i'm very pleased to be here on the floor with my friend, the senator from connecticut, mr. murphy, who has been at the forefront of this battle for many years, and we will not let up until we see meaningful action here in the united states senate, because, mr. president, we have an epidemic of gun violence in this country. the only question is what are we going to do about it. we have seen 293 mass shootings in the last nine months. we see people being killed by gun violence in our streets and in our neighborhoods every day. all told 100 of our fellow americans die from gun violence every day. it can happen any time anywhere
to anybody. it can happen in our schools, our movie theaters, our homes, our concert, our bars, our shopping centers, our streets. no one is immune or free from this violence. if this were an epidemic caused by a preventable disease, this congress would convene on an emergency basis. we would be having a bipartisan gathering to immediately pass legislation to help discover new cures and vaccines for whatever disease that was that was killing 100 of our fellow americans every day. but when it comes to gun violence, here in the united states senate nothing, no action and inaction is complicity. it is complicity in the carnage when we know there are
commonsense measures we can take together to reduce the gun violence. are we going to stop every single gun death? no. but we know that these commonsense measures can save thousands of american lives and yet we do nothing here in the united states senate. and that's despite the fact that we have at the desk a bill that was passed by the united states house of representatives 202 days ago. mr. president, i have a copy of that bill in my hand. it's h.r. 8. and if you look at it, it says read the second time and placed on the calendar. for people who may be listening in, what it means to be placed on the calendar means it's here at the desk of the united states
senate. it means we could take it up any time. we could take it up right now. in fact, now i'm holding what is called the calendar of business for tuesday, september 17, 2019. if you look at it, mr. president, number 29, h.r. 8. how does it describe h.r. 8? very simply. an act to require a background check for every firearm sale. very simple. something supported by over 90% of the american people regardless of party. mr. president, i have in my hand a copy of the united states constitution. i just want to read article 1, section 1 because it's very straightforward. it says all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested
in a congress of the united states which shall consist of a senate and a house of representatives. madam president, the house of representatives has acted. as i said, h.r. 8, a bill for universal background checks is at the senate desk. it's the senate that hasn't acted. and yet i heard the republican leader as recently as today at a press event when asked when the senate was going to take up gun safety legislation, when we were going to take up universal background checks, he said ask them. meaning ask the president, ask the executive branch. and i don't know, madam president, when we, the united states senate, contracted out our constitutional responsibilities to the
executive branch and to the gun lobby and others when we have it in our power right here tonight to take up a lifesaving measure. the majority leader also said we're in a holding pattern. what are we holding for as more and more americans die, 100 per day from gun violence? mr. president, in my state of maryland, we have been the victims like every other state of people dying by guns. we had a mass shooting, it was at the capital gazette newspaper, five souls taken. we've had a school shooting in maryland, great mills high school in southern maryland. and every day we see people in
maryland being inflicted and hard by gun violence in our streets and neighborhoods. and maryland has actually done something about it. as a state we've passed some important gun measures. we closed the gun show loophole. we require universal background checks in maryland. we have actually banned semiautomatic assault weapons, a law held up by the supreme court of the united states. we require a permit to purchase a gun. some may say well, maryland passed these laws. why do you have a gun violence problem? well, if you look at the figures from the a.t.f., if you look at their gun tracing statistics, you find that 54% of crimes in maryland committed with a gun come from guns from outside the
state of maryland, from our surrounding states because maryland is not an island. we are part of the united states of america. so our state can pass sensible gun laws. we can help reduce the carnage in maryland and we have. but until we act as a country, until we pass universal background checks, maryland will continue to be vulnerable to the negligence of other states and most of all the negligence of the united states senate which has refused to act. now, the president knows where the american people are on this issue because after we have a mass shooting, the president always makes public comments
about how he's going to do something about it, including addressing background checks. after the slawters in -- slaughters in el paso and dayton on his way to visit those grieving communities, the president said, quote, i'm looking to do background checks. i think background checks are important. end quote. he went on to say, and i quote, i think we can bring up background checks like we never had before. end quote. after the shooting at marjorie stoneham douglas high school, he called some members of congress to the white house, including senator murphy. senator murphy talked about the importance of background checks. the president told him, you know, you've got a new president now and we're going to work together to get this done. we have a different attitude.
that's what the president always says after a terrible shooting. but then the president gets a call from the n.r.a. gets a call from the gun lobby. and you get a headline like this one which we saw in august 20, 2019. n.r.a. gets results on gun laws in one phone call with trump. so the president knows how the country feels. the president knows the country wants action. the president knows the country wants the senate to act. so he says those things publicly but then he gets a phone call from the gun lobby. and then he back pedals and that's where we are now, with the president stalling, pretending, going through these sort of fake actions, pretending
we're going to get there. madam president, i hope we do get there but what the president has said and done in the past gives me no confidence which is why i come back to the very place i started, which is that this body, the united states senate, has its own responsibilities under the constitution. the constitution, article 1, gives the house and the senate the law making power, not the president of the united states. we shouldn't be looking down pennsylvania avenue and saying what's the president thinking before we take action to help save lives. we're the united states senate, and we now have right in front of us at the desk, right here, we have a bill that will save lives passed by the house of representatives 202 days ago for universal background checks. now senator mcconnell and other senators, if they don't
want to support the position taken by 90% of the american people, then they can vote no on h.r. 8. the majority leader doesn't think that people of kentucky support h.r. 8, it's his prerogative to vote no. that's the right of every senator, but what's outrageous, madam president, is abolishing every other senator in this body from exercising our rights to represent our constituents and help save lives around the country. we support the voices of 90% of the american people who want us to take action to reduce gun violence in the united states of america, to address this like the epidemic it is, to address it like we would address a disease epidemic that was killing 100 of our fellow americans every day.
so let's stop ignoring our responsibilities. legislatiolet's stop pointing tr end of pennsylvania avenue. there's really no time to wait. thoughts and prayers will not end the gun violence. senate action and a vote on h.r. 8 can help save lives in the united states of america. and every single day that goes by that we don't take that vote is a day that this body is complicit in more deaths by gun violence. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. a senator: thank you. i want to recognize my friend and colleague for continueious
-- continuously demanding that all of us do better, all of us do more to address what is an epidemic of gun violence. and we're here tonight and through the night to call on leader mcconnell to do a very simple thing which is to bring background check legislation and other gun safety legislation to the senate floor for a vote. mr. schatz: 40,000 americans had their lives cut short by guns last year, 40,000 americans died. it's unthinkable that we would allow mass violence to occur in our country with this type of frequency. and what's shocking is that not only do we accept this as part of the american way of life as though it's enshrined in the constitution that we must have this amount of violence in order to have our second amendment rights but that we have allowed the question of what to do to
keep our people safe to turn into a partisan question. the democrats are out here on the floor saying why don't we figure out what we can do to make people safer and on the other side of the chamber is examplely no one -- is exactly no one. and this isn't the first time this has happened or the second time or the third time or the fifth time. when we come down to the floor to demand action on gun safety, we have no dance partner. and it shouldn't be this way especially given where the public is at. and i don't just mean democrats or independents. americans of all stripe, democrats, republicans, gun owners agree that commonsense gun safety reforms are the way forward. this means background checks. it means no guns for violent criminals or domestic abusers. and no guns for anyone who could endanger themselves or endanger
others. about 90% of all americans support these very sensible reforms. and here's the thing. they support them not for purely ideological reasons or partisan reasons. the reason these things pull 85%, 95% even among n.r.a. members is because, a, it doesn't infringe on your second amendment rights. and, b, it works. it is no coincidence that the two steepest drops in murder rates in our country came right after the passage of two sets of significant gun laws. the first were the national firearms control acts in 1934 and 1938. and the second were the background checks and assault weapons ban bills in 1993 and 1994. and those legislative efforts and the decrease in violence that followed their passage proves that progress is possible. and here's the thing.
whenever we get into this conversation, we get into kind of trying to figure out whether whatever law we're trying to pass would retroactively be able to fix whichever moment of violence we are now focused on and sad about and despairing about. and that's not the way to look at this. sure there are individual situations where if we pass background checks it would absolutely help. but it is also a matter of the federal government putting some parameters on the kinds of guns that you can get and the requirements in order to own a gun. so what's happening? why are we still stuck? why are we still stuck? republicans in the senate are just waiting on the white house. it's as simple as that. this isn't some partisan attack from me, partisan democrat.
this is literally what leader mcconnell said. he said he will not schedule a vote or schedule a debate on the house-passed bill to expand background checks for gun purchases because president trump has indicated he won't sign it. and according to leader mcconnell, he says if the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, he'd be happy to put it on the floor. let me just say that's not actually how the senate is supposed to operate. we're supposed to originate the legislation. we're supposed to be the world's greatest deliberative body. we're supposed to determine what kind of law to make. we're not supposed to play mother may i with the president of the united states and wait for clearance before we even initiate a debate. and the idea that in this body when today we voted on the, what was it, the u.a.e. ambassador, the ambassador to sweden, i think -- not that those are unimportant matters,
but we had full postcloture debate time when basically we were in a quorum call. we were in a quorum call. no one was talking. we can't afford to set aside 30 hours or 50 hours or two weeks of senate time to figure out what to do about the gun violence epidemic? shame on us. congress should be taking up bills, debating them, passing them, and the president can make his decision about whether to sign or veto. we cannot wait for president trump on this because he's deeply, deeply inconsistent not just generally speaking, but specifically on the question of gun safety. in the immediate aftermath of every horrific shooting, the president talked about doing something meaningful to address gun violence but then he backtracked. in february of 2018 in the wake of the horrific shooting at parkland, president trump said we're going to be very strong on background checks.
a year later and two days before the house-passed legislation that would require universal background checks for most gun purchases or transfers, trump threatened to veto the bill if passed. in february of 2018 during a televised meeting with lawmakers, the president proposed raising the age for buying assault rifles from 18 to 21 and then he backtracked. more recently following the shootings in texas and ohio that left 29 dead and dozens wounded, trump tweeted on august 5 washington must come together to get strong background checks. sounds pretty good. on august 19, 14 days later, he reversed course. when talking with reporters, he used an n.r.a. approved talking point, quote, just remember, we already have a lot of background checks, and he warned of gun control's, quote, slippery slope. the president has a long history of changing his position on guns. in 2011 he was against gun
control. in 2013 he supported background checks. a year after that he protested against background checks for gun purchases in new york state. this is just how he rolls. specifically on this issue, but, frankly, on a lot of stuff. you could say the same thing about having an honors broker as it -- an honest broker as it relates to immigration. he's just not reliable. that is how he rolls. we don't have to be downstream from all that. we're the article 1 branch. we can do what we decide to do as the so-called world's greatest deliberative body. to make it worse in the week since the attacks in ohio and texas, we keep hearing from republicans that gun violence is not caused by guns. to quote the president directly, mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger. not the gun. mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger. not the gun. i want to spend a little time on
this one because this one is really offensive and really deeply hurtful. setting aside the lack of progress on guns, we're also losing 10, 20, 30 years of progress that we made in destigmatizing mental health services. now mass shooters and regular experience mental illness of the same rate. there is no indication that mass shooters or individual people who are homicidal experience mental illness than any other part of the population. it's more insidious than that. about 20% of all americans at some point need mental health services and the great difficulty in terms of of getting mental health services is not just availability of care, it's that people still
feel embarrassed to say i need some help. and shame on the president of the united states to equate someone who may need care for postpartum depression or post traumatic stress coming back from iraq or afghanistan or may experience a bipolar disorder or whatever it may be, a kid with autism, shame on the president of the united states to imply that people who need mental health services are somehow dangerous and they are the ones that should be cracked down on. that is a deeply, deeply dangerous thing to say about 20% of all americans who simply need to get better and who simply need to not be characterized as crazy or dangerous or that they should be ashamed of what they are experiencing. shame on the president of the united states for equating
mental illness with being dangerous to society. consider for a minute the progress that we made as a society to destigma -- de stigmatize mental health. we've represented reduce the shame around living with the challenges and more people are willing to prioritize their mental well-being. people should not be embarrassed or scared to seek the help they need and shouldn't be blamed for the gun violence epidemic in our country. i want to read a letter from a hawaii resident, elizabeth sager. she writes two mass shootings in 24 hours, this cannot be our new norm. we need change. we can no longer assume heading to the store, an event or school is safe anymore. there are places in the united states that make it easier to get a gun than it is to adopt a pet at a local animal shelter.
this is not right. we need sensible gun laws in our country, better systems in place to prevent this from happening again. i cannot imagine what the world is going to look like for children growing up today. and the senate has the power to save lives and protect more of our kids by enacting sensible reforms. what we need is for republicans to do the right thing and to rise to the moment. thousands of people are dying every month. we cannot wait for the president. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: thank you very much, madam president. let me thank once again my colleagues for being here on the floor with us this evening for the compelling testimony of senator schatz and senator casey and senator brown and senator
van hollen, so many others who have joined us here this evening. we have a few more who will come down later in the evening. but i want to take a moment to put a face on this issue. there are 100 americans who are killed every day by guns. the majority of these are suicides, but many are homicides. many are accidental shootings, domestic homicides. shootings in this country happen at a rate ten times that of any other high-income nation. this is a uniquely american epidemic, and senator schatz very aptly pointed out that it can't be because of mental health, because we have no more mental illness in this country than any other nation does. it can't be because of lack of
law enforcement resources. we spend just as much money, if not more on law enforcement than any other country in the world. it's not because we put less money into treatment for mental illness. we put more money on a per capita basis than other nations do. to explain our abnormally high rate of gun violence, ten times that of other high-income nations, you have to tell a story of the proliferation of dangerous weapons, of the ability of almost anyone, regardless of their criminal history or their history of illness to be able to get their hands on a weapon. nowhere else in the high-income world is it so easy to be able to get your hands on a weapon and often a weapon of mass destruction. leo spencer was born an only child. he grew up in bridgeport,
connecticut, but he was far from an only child in his mind. his cousins were like his siblings and he spent summer after summer with them in boston, connecticut, cape verde and saint thomas. he was known as lil bill and friends described him as an amazing person, a phenomenal soul, the greatest friend they ever had, the best family member they knew. a family member said leo was a simple man who loved to keep to himself but deep down inside he was a free spirit that wanted nothing more than to make people laugh. always joking around, he kept us on our toes. his smile lit up the room. another friend said never one to follow trends, leo was intent on making his own path through hard work and unparalleled ambition. this friend said he was a creative soul with a deep love for expressing himself through music. he loved fiercely without bonds.
leo placed a priority on making sure that his family and friends were happy. he made each person feel like they were the most important person in the world. he loved his parents. he did everything he did, he could for them. he wanted to take care of his mom the way that she took care of him. leo on september 8 of 2019, just a few days ago, was shot in the head and the neck while sitting in the passenger's seat of a friend's car. a friend hit the accelerator, drove him as fast as he could could bridgeport hospital, but he was pronounced dead. leo spencer was one of the 100 americans who die every day from gun violence. but it's so much bigger than leo. i mentioned leo's cousins, his family members, his friends.
their lives will never be the same either, forever altered. studies show that when one person dies from a gunshot wound, there are 20 other people who experience life-altering trauma. it becomes a cycle that becomes hard to get out of. i'll talk a little bit later about sandy hook, connecticut, but sandy hook will never ever be the same. never after what that community has been through. and leo, whether he knew it or not, may already vk -- affected by gun violence because when you grow up in places like bridgeport when kids fear for their life when walking to and from school the trauma from the fear of gun violence ruins your brain. we call this a public health epidemic not to be cute with our words, but because that is exactly what it is. when you don't know whether you're going to make it through the rest of the week as a child -- and studies show that
a criminally high number of young people of color in this country living in urban environments that are violent don't believe they're going to live past 25 years old, when that is your belief, something happens to your brain. most of us in this chamber probably only confronted once or twice in our life a fight or flight moment. that is a moment in your life where you face a risk that is so great, a danger that is so acute that you've got to make a decision in a split second. do you fight or do you run? our bodies are designed to rush into our brains, a hormone called cortisol that helps uk make that quick -- helps us make that quick decision. many of us may never have actually faced that moment and frankly i hope that anyone never has. but when you grow up in a place like the east end of bridgeport, you face that decision fight or flee on a weekly basis.
and what doctors will tell you is that these kids' brains who grow up in these neighborhoods are literally bathed in cortis cortisol. now cortisol when it comes in and out in an instant once or twice in your life, it can be helpful. but when it is flowing through your circuitry on a regular basis, it literally corrupts your brain. it corrupts your brain. and so it is no coincidence that all of the quote, unquote -- underperforming schools in this country are in the violent neighborhoods because these kids show up with brains that cannot learn, with brains that cannot cope, that cannot create lasting relationships, brains that have been just at if id -- atrophied by the daily fear for their lives that they experience because this congress has done nothing, nothing to address their reality. so we are down here on the floor today to tell you about people like leo so that maybe our colleagues who aren't responding
to the numbers may respond to the stories of those lives that have been lost. let me tell you another one. over the winter we shut down the government for an unacceptable period of time so we were all figuring out what to do with our days when we weren't legislating. i decided one day to take a trip up to baltimore. baltimore in some years has been the most violent city in the country with the most kids that are going through this life altering cycle of trauma. but i had heard about a program in an elementary school that was teaching kids how to be entrepreneurs, that was giving them a vision of their life after growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in baltimore, trying to give them a pathway of hope, a ray of sunshine in their life. so i went up and talked to the person who ran that program.
her name is joni holyfield. she and i sat down in a classroom on the second floor of matthew henson elementary school. she started to explain to me her path out of the corporate world into programming for kids at schools like matthew henson, what she thought that that programming could bring to these kids. in the middle of this conversation, the intercom starts blaring a recorded message code grown, code green -- code green, code green, code green. i didn't know what a code green was. joni didn't know what a code green was. but shortly thereafter a teacher opened the door to our classroom and yelled shut the blind, turn off the lights. so we did as instructed. and we sat there a little nervous not knowing what a code green was. shortly thereafter someone from the main office knowing that there was a united states senator in a second floor classroom called up.
joni answered the phone and was told that a code green means there's been a shooting in the proximity of the school and that the school is on lockdown. the day that i was there at this elements rye school in -- elementary school in baltimore, there was a shooting within a block or two of the school. and here's what i found out. that morning there had been a delay in school starting. it snowed that morning so i walked in with all the rest of the kids around 9:30, 10:00. about the same time that i was showing up to the school that morning, a young man by the name of cory dodd brought his two twin little girls to school that morning. he was doing -- his wife was home tending to their relatively newborn child. cory decided to bring the kids to school that morning himself. he drove home a couple of blocks away after dropping the twins off right about the time that i
was probably walking upstairs to the second floor and when he got out of his car, he was shot to death. one of his other little daughters always sits at the door waiting for her dad to come home. she was there waiting for cory. her mom had to tell her that her dad was never coming home. he had been shot outside of their house that morning. and as that code green was happening inside that elementary school and kids were probably having a little bit of fun, wondering when the lights were going to come back on, there were two little girls who were never going to see their father again, who were going to be told in a matter of hours that this shooting had been -- taken the life of their dad. and every single kid in that school was going to start wondering is it going to be my dad next, is it going to be my mom next, that cycle of trauma, that cortisol that bathes kids' brains was going to be a reality once again for all of the kids in this neighborhood. and that's just one day that i happened to be in baltimore. imagine that it isn't just coincidence. imagine that's the reality day
after day after day for kids all across this country. why are we doing nothing? why are we sitting on our hands? why are my republican colleagues waiting for the president to give them direction? it would be one thing if we didn't know what to do, right? if we were overflowing with compassion for those two twin little girls in baltimore, maryland, for the family of leo spencer in bridgeport. but we just couldn't figure out what would make this situation better. that's not the case. we know what will make this situation better. there is no mystery about it. in my state of connecticut, in my state of connecticut, we passed a law requiring all handgun buyers to pass a background check as part of a permit process. and studies show that there was a 40% reduction in the gun
homicide rate after connecticut passed that law. that's just one state, you say. 40%, that's pretty serious. that's a pretty big return on one change in the law. give me another state, you say. okay. let's take a look at missouri which did the opposite. a few years ago it repealed its purchase permit law that requires you to get a background check with every sale of a weapon in missouri. guess what happened? a year later gun hom sized went up -- homicides went up by 23%. during that period of time, gun homicide rates were going down and all the states around missouri and they went up in missouri. then they found out that in fact in other states where it did go up in those other states were the number of weapons used in crimes that came from missouri because all of a sudden you didn't need a background check in missouri. so if you wanted to traffic guns to other state, missouri was the place to get them.
across the board when you look at all of the states' experiences, you don't get everywhere 40% and 23% but on average states that have background checks have 15% lower homicide rates than states that have them. if we did this on a national basis, even states that have national background checks would benefit because the -- they're not coming from connecticut. they're coming from states with -- you guessed it -- no universally background checks. the guns used in chicago don't come from chicago. the guns used in crimes in new york city don't come from new york city. 1% of guns concluded in crimes in new york city come from new jersey. you know why? because new jersey has universal background checks. so those guns are coming up south carolina and georgia and places where you can grow to a gun show and -- you can go to a gun show and get a truckload of guns without ever having to go through a background check.
background checks work. they are the most impactful public policy measure. since the background check law was passed in the mid-1990's, over 3.5 million sales have been blocked to violent criminals and other prohibited individuals. and that is just the tip of the iceberg because those are the people that actually had the gall to set foot in the gun store knowing that they had an offense in their history that would prohibit them from buying gun. these are people that went into the gun store and tried to buy a gun and got denied. there are millions and millions more people who wanted guns but couldn't get them and didn't go into the gun store in the first place. the problem is today getting
that denial from the gun store is not really a barrier to buying a gun. because 20%, 30% of gun sales now happen without a background check. they happen in a private sale between one person and another. they happen at a gun show which is -- which are forums that don't require under federal law background checks. a man in odessa, texas, failed a background check because he had been diagnosed by a clinician as seriously mentally ill. that didn't stop him from getting a gun. he just found a private seller that he found another way, private seller gave him a gun and didn't require him to go through a background check. he took that gun and he used it to kill seven people and injure
20 more. now i don't think that you have to pass a law to fit the last mass shooting. i think that's a ridiculous trap that people try to put us in. but this isn't the only mass shooting in which universally -- universal background checks could have changed the outcome. one of the first mass shootings that sits in my consciousness that in columbine is another example of a shooter who got a gun outside the background check system, who couldn't have gotten one through it. so whether you want anecdotal evidence or statistical data, i've got it all. background checks work. but here's what's so maddening. people love background checks.
apple pie and baseball, grandma, none of them are as popular as background checks are. 90% of americans like background checks. show me any other public policy today in the united states of america who gets 90% support in this country. 80% of gun owners, 70% of n.r.a. members. everyone wants background checks. universal background checks, they don't want mansion toomey which -- they want -- they want h.r. 8 which is past -- passed the house of representatives, has been sitting on the floor of the united states senate for 202 days. that's what americans want. 90% of americans support h.r. 8. don't tell me that this issue is controversial. it's just controversial in this bubble. it's not controversial out in the american public. and it's not a blue state or red state issue. background checks are just as
popular in georgia as they are in connecticut. and as senator schatz said, we don't have to wait for the president to tell us what to do. senator mcconnell has a different copy of the constitution that i have. my copy of the constitution says that none of us are required to get permission slips from the president before we act, before we do something that we think is good for the country. and it's wild to me how the republican leadership is so eager to advertise that the senate will do nothing unless president trump gives it permission. he's not the most popular guy. i don't know why my friends on the republican side would just openly admit that they don't act unless the president tells them that it's okay. that's not how it has to be. we can make a decision ourselves. and on this one every single
person here should do it because it's the right thing. but it's also going to win you a lot of support back home. madam president, i have a few more colleagues who want to say a few words and then i may wrap up at the end. but i want to finish in my last five minutes or so by reading something to you. and i apologize to my friend neil heslin because i made a commitment to read this every father's day after the shooting in sandy hook. and i forget to do it this year and so this is a makeup effort. i don't want to talk too much about what happened in sandy hook this morning.
i've spent plenty of time talking to my colleagues about it. unfortunately there is a ma cob bra club of senators and congressmen who now have had to walk where their community through these horrific mass shootings. maybe there's not another one like sandy hook where 206 and 7-year-olds lost their lives in a earth ma of minutes but they're all terrible. they're all awful. one of the things that happened in the wake of these mass atrocities is you get to know the victims' families, you get the know the parents, brothers or sisters. they become friends of yours and i feel i have this personal obligation to the families in sandy hook separate and aside from the global obligation i believe i have to human beings in the country. amongst the parents, one of those i've become closest to is a gentleman by the name of neil hesslin. jesse lewis is one of the children who lost their life that day. neil has had an up and down
life, an up and down life. he would admit that to you. it hasn't been an easy life for neil. jesse was neil's best friend, not just his son. and i tell his story every father's day because it's a reminder to all of us who are fathers how none of us are protected from this. neil thought he was. neil ever, ever thought that this would happen to him, but it did. and it's a reminder that but for the grace of god, any of us could be victims, could know a victim. and so why sit on our hands and do nothing if we could do something? so let me finish, madam president, by reading an except from neil hesslin's testimony that he gave to the
united states senate in february of 2013, two months after his son was shot, and i'll wrap up after i finish. this page and a half of his testimony. my name is neil heslin. jesse lewis was my son. he was a boy that loved life and lived it to the fullest. he was my best friend. on december 14, he lost his life at sandy hook elementary because of a gun that nobody needs and nobody should have a right to have. i'm here to tell his story. i know what i'm doing here today won't bring my son back, but i hope that maybe if you listen to what i say today that you will do something about it. maybe no one else will have to experience what i've experienced on december 14, jesse got up and got ready for school. he was always excited to go to school. i remember on that day that we stopped at the misty vale deli.
it's funny the things you remember. i remember jesse got the sausage with hot chocolate and i remember the hug he gave me when i dropped him off. he held me and he rubbed my back. i can still feel that hug. and jesse said it's going to be all right. everything's going to be okay, dad. looking back, it makes me wonder, what did he know. did he have some idea about what was about to happen? but at the time i didn't think much of it. i just thought he was being sweet. he was always being sweet like that. he was the kind of kid who used to leave me voice messages where he'd sing me happy birthday even when it wasn't my birthday. i'd ask him about it and he'd say i wanted to make you feel happy. half the time i'd feel like he was the parent and i was the son. he just had so much wisdom. he would know things and i would have no idea how he knew. but whatever he said, it was always right. he'd remember things that we had done and places that we had been
that i had completely forgotten about. i used to think of his as my tiny adult. he had this inner calm and maturity. teachers would tell me about his laugh, how he made things at school more fun just by being there. if somebody was ever unhappy, jesse would find a way to make them feel better. if he heard a baby crying, he wouldn't stop until he got the kid to smile. jesse just had this idea that you never leave people hurt. if you can help somebody, you do it. if you can make somebody feel better, you do it. if you can leave somebody a little bit better off, you do it. they tell me that's how he died. i guess we still don't know exactly what happened in that school. maybe we'll never know. but what people tell me is that jesse did something different. when he heard the shooting, he didn't run and hide. he started yelling. people disagree with the last thing he said. one person said he yelled run. another person said he told everybody to run now. ten kids from my son's class
made it to safety. i hope to god that something jesse did helped them survive that day. what i know is that jesse wasn't shot in the back. he took two bullets. the first one grazed the side of his head but that didn't stop him from yelling. the other hit him in the forehead. both bullets were fired from the front. that means the last thing my son did was look at adam lanza straight in the face and scream to his classmates to run. the last thing he saw was that coward's eyes. jesse grew up with guns like i did. i started shooting skeet when i was eight years old. jesse lad an interest in guns. he had a bb gun. i taught him gun safety. he knew it. he could recite it to you. he got it. i think he would have got what we're talking about here today. he liked looking at pictures of army guns but knew those guns were for him. they were for killing people. before he died, jesse and i used to talk about maybe coming
to washington someday. he wanted to go up to the washington monument. when we talked about it last year, jesse asked when we would come, could we meet the president. i'm a little cynical about politicians, but jesse believed in you. he learned about you in school, and he believed in you. i want to believe in you too. i know you can't give me jesse back. believe me, if i thought you could, i'd be asking you for that. but i want to believe that you will think about what i told you here today. i want to believe that you'll think about it and then you'll do something about it. whatever you can do to make sure that no other father has to see what i've seen. you can start by passing legislation to take the
senseless weapons out of the hands of people like adam lanza. do something, he said. do something. it's seven years later. we haven't done anything. and so we're down here on the floor tonight begging our colleagues to put a bill on the floor, amend it, debate it, do whatever you want, but let's not stay silent any longer. i yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: we are here tonight when we should not be. because the epidemic, the pageant of gun violence in this
country should have been addressed by us by now. we have not acted. we have not acted in large part because we are engaged in a bizarre self-inflicted political experiment in this country in which we allow big special interests to use secret money in elections to manipulate our politics. this ought to be easy. there have been 293 mass shootings since january 1, 2019, this year alone. these tragedies have galvanized the american public in support of sensible restrictions on guns and the amount of agreement among the american public is
astounding. 86% of americans support implementing what we call red flag laws that allow a judge to remove guns from someone who's determined to be a danger to himself or others. 86%. you could barely get 86% of the senate to agree on the day of the week. 89% support expanding federal background checks to cover private sales and to close the gun show loophole. 86% support an assault weapons ban. 70% support a ban on large capacity magazines. these are large popular majorities. and in a functional democracy, we would listen to them, we would hear them, we would honor them, and we would respond to this bloodshed.
why we have not done that takes us on a sordid crawl through the sewers of modern politics inhabited by the national rifle association. the national rifle association spent $30 million supporting president trump. no wonder they can undo all of our work with a simple phone call to the oval office. but it's much worse than that. reports emerged last year that the n.r.a. accepted money from foreign sources, including russian banker and putin ally alexander torshin and spent that money in politics in america. senator wyden sent letters to the n.r.a. and to the treasury department about these reports.
the n.r.a. responded, maintaining that it properly segregates any foreign donations so they are not used for political purposes. fat chance of that with money being fungible. i joined senator wyden on a follow-up letter renewing the request following the request of maria butina, an evident n.r.a. go-between. the i.r.s. under president trump took no action against the n.r.a. in response to these allegations. in august, the federal election commission deadlocked 2-2 on whether to investigate this matter at all. the f.e.c. is so locked up on this now that they wouldn't even investigate. fec commission wine trawb in frustration wrote some allegations are too serious to ignore, too serious to simply take the n.r.a.'s denials at
face value. too serious to play games with. yet, in this matter my colleagues ran their usual evidence-blocking play, and the commission's attorneys placed too much faith in the few facts the n.r.a. put before us. so we can't even look into the extent of russian interference in our politics through the n.r.a. it goes on. last fall the campaign legal center and gifford center filed complaints with the federal election commission alleging that the n.r.a. was evading the anticoordination rules of our elections between the trump campaign and with various republican senate campaigns. the complaints allege that the n.r.a. and the campaigns coordinated spending through a g.o.p. media consulting firm. what did the media consulting
firm do? it set up a series of shell corporations through which the campaigns paid. we've all used media consulting firms in getting to the senate. which of those media consulting firms set up shell corporations? in fact, these shell corporations, these supposedly separate companies shared staff, office space, and other resources so that the firm coordinated the ad buys between the n.r.a. and the campaigns. once again the f.e.c. did nothing so the campaign legal centers had to sue the federal election commission in district court. the n.r.a.'s political spending has more than quintupled since five republican appointees on the supreme court allowed
unlimited anonymous money into our political system. from $10 million in 2010, the year of the citizens united decision, to about $55 million in the 2016 election. the n.r.a. now spends unlimited amounts of dark money on political ads. they can come after people, they can threaten people, they can make promises to people. and that is why 86%, 89% of the united states public gets ignored around here. when representative raskin and i wrote the n.r.a. and the consultants about this coordination scheme, guess what the supposedly independent groups did. they wrote back to us in the same letter from the same lawyer
some independence. and of course we're still waiting on the f.e.c. to take any action at all. by way of a visitors' guide to the sewer of modern politics inhabited by the n.r.a., i ask unanimous consent that a september 17 article from "the trace" called "a guide to every known investigation of the n.r.a." be appended to my remarks as an exhibit. i'll close where i began, madam president. there have been 293 mass shootings since january 1 of this year. and the american public has an extraordinarily common voice for red flag laws, for expanding federal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, banning assault weapons, and
mr. schumer: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i rise tonight to join the chorus of democratic senators in this chamber demanding action to address the american gun violence epidemic. we stand here tonight on behalf of the tens of millions of americans from one end of the country to the other who are crying out for change. every few months it seems our nation is rocked by another horrifying mass shooting. el paso and dayton are only the latest entries in our national register of tragedy, a list that stretches from parkland to pittsburgh, charleston to columbine, aurora to orlando, blacksburg to binghamton, san bernardino to sandy hook to las vegas. because that ever-growing list can sometimes seem abstract, let's not forget the specific places where these awful
shootings occurred -- movie theaters and nightclubs, shopping malls and office parks, music festivals and traffic stops, churches, synagogues, mosques, colleges, high schools, and an elementary school. our hearts remain with the families of the victims and the survivors of these mass shootings whose lives were turned upside down in an instant by madmen who never should have had access to a gun. the touching letter that senator murphy read from one of his constituents, a child that died at sandy hook, is just one of the many testaments to that turning upside down instantly, ruining your life forever by one of these horrible, awful incidents. at the same time that our hearts are with tens of thousands more whose lives were ended or forever altered by everyday gun
violence, it doesn't make the headlines, but we remember them, too. no less tragic, no less pain from the parents who lost children, the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who lost mothers and fathers, whether it's a mass shooting or an individual shooting. people who shouldn't have guns are killing our fellow american citizens, and congress sits there on its hands, the senate does anyway, and does nothing. now, let me mention a few stories of new yorkers whose lives were cut short by gun violence just this year, and the list goes on and on, i assure you. nozelle aldridge was a youth football coach. he was shot in the chest and killed a few weeks ago while trying to break up a fight at a park on buffalo's east side.
coach aldridge's team had just finished playing the first game of their season. ryan williams canon, a 21-year-old from syracuse, was shot and killed in march as he was leaving the corner store. he was the youngest of seven siblings. he had just earned his g.e.d. in october. ryan's family said he was like a father to his nephew, sneaking candies to him behind his mother's back. shaquille kahn of johnson city was murdered by a masked gunman in april while he was closing up his restaurant. he, shaquille, was the sole provider for his wife and his three children 14, 12, and 8. and -- may god rest their souls. now, i could stand here for hours and tell a hundred more stories. each one as heart breaking as the next. each one senseless violence that
might not have occurred had we had adequate laws on the books. each one living all the people around them, their families, friends, communities devastated by the recklessness, senselessness of this gun violence. it's our solemn duty of these victims of these terrible tragedies they can't speak for themselves, but their memories call down to us for justice to cure this terrible plague of gun violence that claims tens of thousands of lives every single year, lives every single day. madam president, i have been fighting this fight for such a long time. back in 1993, i was in my sixth term representing brooklyn and queens in the house of representatives. i knew the terrible toll of gun violence firsthand because the
streets of my community was testimony to it. east new york and cyprus hills were known as the killing grounds back then because someone was murdered an average of once every 63 hours. so i was more than eager to help write, introduce, and pass the legislation establishing our background check system that later became known as the brady bill. as we take stock of the legacy of that bill 25 years later, there is no question that saved countless lives. there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people walking the streets of their communities who are alive today and would have been dead had the brady law not passed. we don't know who they are, they don't know who they are, but we know they are alive and we're thankful for it. ever since the national instant
criminal background check system went online in 1998, there have been more than 1.5 million denials to disqualified buyers. the ability to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons has helped lead to a steep drop in murder rates experienced by communities across the country. take my town of new york city. in the early 1990's before the brady bill was enacted, an average of 2,500 people were murdered every year in the five boroughs. last year, that number was just 289. but that doesn't mean our work is done. far from that. what seemed like a minor compromise in 1993, allowing the sale of firearms without background checks at gun shows, has become a massive loophole. at the time when i wrote the brady bill, gun shows were a place for collectors to sell an teetion, but gun shows have grown exponentially in -- to
sell antiques, but gun shows have grown exponentially in popularity, because people know there are no background checks. those people who want to sell to people who don't go through background checks sell their guns there. and of even greater dimension, the internet exploded to facilitate private sales between strangers, no questions asked. and while some cities like new york have thankfully seen an overall decrease in gun deaths, there are still too many pockets in cities across the country where this epidemic persists. at the same time, the frequency, lethality of mass shootings have rapidly increased. the internet allows for copycats, people up to no good to see someone else has killed many people and maybe they
should do the same. we have seen the frequency of these awful mass shootings continue on and on and on. so, madam president, we finally have an opportunity to close that loophole, keep guns from falling into the wrong hands in the first place. we have the opportunity to simply update the brady law. not change it. not expand it. just plug the holes that were punctured in it. as time moved forward. no gun will be taken away from someone who's a law-abiding citizen by this law. no, only people who shouldn't have guns will not get them. and who could disagree with that? certainly not the american people who are overwhelmingly on our side. we senate democrats are here tonight because the house of
representatives has finally passed legislation closing the private sale loophole, marking the first time that either chamber of congress has passed an overhaul of a background check system since the brady law more than 25 years ago. what we're asking for is very simple and shouldn't cause us to come here at night. it should be an obvious thing to do, a simple up-or-down vote on legislation, an up-or-down vote on h.r. 8. let me say it again. leader mcconnell, put h.r. 8 up for a vote on the floor of the senate as soon as possible. let us do what we were sent here to do by our constituents. what our constituents demand we do -- fix the most pressing problems facing our nation.
if we fail to do so, it's plain and simple and terrible, more innocent people will die. before i yield the floor, i want to thank the survivors and families of victims who have done so much to remind the american people of just what's at stake when it comes to gun violence. i keep on a desk in my office pictures of the children who were murdered at sandy hook, given to me by their ailing and grieving parents. and those parents and the thousands and thousands of others like them, survivors, who amazingly choose to light a candle to prevent greater darkness, despite the darkness that has overcome -- that has surrounded their lives. beautiful people, saint-like
people, andwe thank them. a year and a half ago -- and we thank them. a year and a half ago, we watched in horror as tragedy struck the parkland community in florida. once again, the safety, sanctuary of a school torn apart by the unthinkable. but this time felt different. almost immediately, the students started speaking out, turning their immeasurable pain into courageous advocacy. just two weeks later, i welcomed these parkland teens into my office. my god, what courage, what fortitude, what strength. even in the darkest of nights, some choose not to curse the darkness but to light a candle. a few weeks later, i joined millions of new yorkers who were inspired to march for change by these parkland teens. millions more americans across the country did the same.
and now, a little more than a year later, the senate, this senate has the opportunity to vote on h.r. 8, universal background checks, among several other pieces of legislation passed by the house that would save lives. -- lives from gun violence. times have changed. people forget that the brady bill was first introduced in 1987, six years after jim brady and president reagan were wounded, and more than six years before it was enacted into law. now we're moving from tragedy to action in a year. the movement that jim and sarah brady started in the 1980's has reached a new era. the american people are no longer willing to wait months or years for change. long gone are the days that senate republicans can just bury their heads in the sand and