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tv   U.S. Senate Senate Democrats on Guns Part 6  CSPAN  September 18, 2019 8:19am-9:46am EDT

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chamber. we are not much of a chamber -- august -- alleges that jam if only one person can determine what is considered here on the floor of the senate. the american peoplere asking for better. let's deliver much better here let's consider h.r. eight. let's get on the floor. let's debate and let's vote. thank you, mr. >> thank you, mr. president. i rise today to speak about the issue that's been consumed a lot of our time, and appropriate so, not only tonight but for many weeks since some of the tragedies of this summer. starting in early august and bucontinuing. 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 calling from
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connecticut, senator murphy, organizing this time to bringing members of the senate together. i want to thank my colleague from ohio, , senator brown, the senior senator, or his words tonight, is passionate 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 your tonight as much as what has happened. when i think a about this issue, the issue of gun violence, which it's an epidemic, it's also uniquely american problem. no other country has this problem. in fact, america didn't have this problem for all of its history. it's, debating on where you start the y clock, it's years od is not a lot longer than that. when i think about the issue and think about the debates where
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having sometimes we start withes the names of communities, and we unfortunately have been 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 dynamism of some of our great communities. but there some communities that have all that but also now have attached to their history, 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 for 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
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or carnage, but also as 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 in fact, kill but it may not become as a mass shooting. but you know all the names now.e just this summer we added several more as everyone knows. i won't go through all the events, these horrific tragic events, but it'sto 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 a pass or dayton -- el paso, or dayton or odessa midland, many years ago it was columbine. it was newtown, connecticut,, virginia tech, las vegas, parkland, aurora, colorado,
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orlando and more recent, gilroy, california, and virginia beach and i left a lot out. 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.s 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, even begin to imagine, nor can most people imagine the horror of being anywhere near a mass shooting. so tonight we remember those
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those 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 a instances, children e directly affected orir indirecty but that indirect effect means that they lost a parent or the lost a sibling, or get lost something in that moment that they will be permanently scarred 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 o sense it's about my home state of pennsylvania, and the other will be at the other end of the age scale, about children who were lost in december of 2012 i'll start with the most recent
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for pennsylvania. we've had obviously example after example, too many to count, hundreds and hundreds over the w last couple of years where someone was killed or injured. we thankfully have not had multiple mass shootings. just a couple of weeks ago in the city of philadelphia, on about the same day that a 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 damage he had of being behind closed doors, he was able to hold off part of a police force. because he was shootingdi indiscriminately with a high-powered weapon. painfully, those six police officers were injured, the
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injuries turned out not to be serious, and the soldiers, or the police officers were released virtually on the same day. so we were blessed on that day. but right across the street, a c very narrow street there was a childcare center that could've been the scene of horrific carnage it made it gone another way. thankfully, those children in that childcare center that was only, it wasn't a block away. i wasn't a a half a block away. it was barely yards and feet away. less than the width of this chamber, that childcare center was from that, , where the shoor was stationed. but i'll start with folks who were worshiping in the tree of life synagogue on a saturday in october of 2018. i won't go through all the
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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. end in this case these were the victims. my wife was kind enough to suggest to me when you have a list or something you want to remember an event like you frame it orbly preserve in some fashion. she was kind enough to make it this framed. but what unholy is just come you a distance but it's just a framed card with names of the victims and i'll just read what it says. so that you know what i'm talking about. at the top of this card, , it ce from a newspaper, the "pittsburgh post-gazette" and9, the date is october 29, 2018. they put this at the front page of the paper. all it says is victims of the
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synagogue shooting and then lists each individual and their ages. joyce fienberg, 75 richard gottfried 65. 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 sabbath in the synagogue. they were lost on that day because a hate filled person can into that synagogue intent by
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way of things he said at 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 with the victims were ages 54-97. so that was one incident in my home state. and 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 newtown, connecticut, shooting that wet all know, unfortunately, so much about. sandy hook s elementary school.
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what the "wall street journal" did, and this dated december 17, 2012 but the "wall street journal" do is put a picture of each child with their name and her ou their age and ae vignette about their young life. i won't go through all of them tonight. i have referred to than in the past. and not every child had a a picture read at the time of this publication. and these children, 20 children, and six adults, i'm sorry, there are seven adults listed here. but these 20 children are 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, six, age six. daniel barton, age seven.
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olivia ingle, six. josephine k, seven. anna marquez green, six. catherine hubbard, six. jesse lewis, six. grace mcdonnell, seven. emily parker, six. noah posner, six. caroline per vd, six. jessica ray kos, six. mad line -- six. chase kowalski, seven. james mattioli, six. and then several children that didn't have pictures at the timb of this publication for the "wall street journal," dylan hockley, six.
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jack tinto, six. abby richman, six. benjamin wheeler, six. and allison wyatt, age six. 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 were lost. and i think we have to begin to ask ourselves some really fundamental questions. maybe in ways we don't often do, even in this chamber, even in this body, which is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world.e this is a place where we should ask some of the questions that
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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 the lift of the united states senate to pass just one bill? and not a bill that will 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 gunmen having a weapon and killing a number of americans, or not. and that was odessa and midland. so we got to do a lot more than background checks, but let's start with what's in front of
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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. eight. we should remember what it is. h.r. eight is the best, and my judgment the best background check billth we have there are other propulsive proposal and d debate in. but is ithe too much of the left to say we're going to debate and vote on h.r. eight, which closes the loop holes on these background checks? and i think would do the best job of any proposal. and then if someone has another proposal, i know senator manchin, senator thune have proposal. let's debate that and vote on that, too. if there's 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,
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this senate reflects the will of the american people, the overwhelming percentage of american people, of the american people support background checks. checks. we should also make sure that there's an opportunity to debate and vote on an extreme risk protection order act, or another version of that. let's make sure that happens. seidel think we're asking the joty leader to take on the challenge that he hasn't already committed to. what i heard majority leader mcconnell say in august was that when we came back your are going to debate and vote on at least those two measures. promise, and if we did that, be solved?problem no. wouldnc gun violence the substantially reduced in the matter of weeks or months?
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no. no one is makg that claim. but at least, at least we could say we made some progress in reducing the likelihood of a 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. thoseou who say no on extreme rk protection order, no on a limitation on the magazines, the number of bullets you could shoot at any one time. as senator brown referred to in dayton, a 32 seconds, 32 seconds, nine people killed. and i guess about 25 injured. in 32 seconds the police officers out there faster than
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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's 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. there's nothing apparently, according to this argument, that this great nation of ours can do to prevent somewhat in 32 seconds to kill nine people and
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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 said 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 nextf 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.
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so again, we have to, taking his argument that there's nothing we can do except enforcing existing law, we hear over and over kent can't do anything, got to enforce existing law, that's the argument. they've been making his argument for decades, okay? so based upon this argument there is nothing we could of 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 american? believe that because we call ourselves americans. we've never had that attitude.
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think of our history. think of what happened in the had thatury if we 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 tobleround the edges. no one really believes that. so that argument i 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 in building for years and decades. by inaction we allow the problem to get a lot worse. and it is about as that as it gets right now. ge numbe oricans now,
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no 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 had seen. but again, the answer here from one side over and over again is, there's nothing we can do. as more andnd more people beliee they could be a victim next. you saw the footage, 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 s a r shield. i'm not sure exactly what it is but i saw the reports. in a backpack, an american child has to g go to school and have
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armored 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 events do you not want to go to because the united states senate, for years now, we happen voted on a series of gun bills in years. as i guess people should get used to being afraid, and wondering if they will be next for their children will be next to in essence, what they are telling us on the other side when theyo say no to background checks can actually 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
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problem. that's what it is. it's t 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 ages six and seven 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, and i know i am well over my time, mr. president, that the least we can do, this isn't hard, eyes, his debate and vote. debate and vote. is that hard? not that strenuous. debate and voteck on background checks debate and vote on an extreme risk protection order. i would go further than that. we do have time for that
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tonight, , but let's debate and vote. and were not going to wait. why should we wait for the president to give us the high site about what he will 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 sortert out after we vote and they will know who was on the record voting which way. but at least let's give them something to indicate that we are americans. we don't surrender to problems. we don't surrender to big problems. we don't surrender to problems common e enemy, disease, and frm an epidemic called on violence. mr. president, i would yield the floor. >> mr. president? >> the senator from maryland. >> thank you, mr. president. i want to thank my friend and
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colleague from pennsylvania for his leadership o this issue and his very clear remarks and call to action. also, very pleased to be on the floor with my friend, the senator from connecticut, mr. murphy, who has been 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 havee an epidemic of gun violence in this country. the only question is what are we going to do about it? h 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
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every day. it can happen any time, anywhere, to anybody here it can happen in our schools, our movie theaters, our homes, our concerts, 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 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 100 100 of our fellow americans everyry day. but when it comes to gun violence here and the united states senate, nothing, no
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action. and inaction is complicity. it is complicity in the carnage when we know that our 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 is 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, either a copy of that deal in my hand -- i have a copy of that bill in my hand. it is h.r. eight and if you look at it it says read the second time and place on the calendar.
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or people who may be listening in, what it means to be placed on the calendar means it's here at the desk in the united states senate. it means we could take it at 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. eight. how does. it describe h.r. eigh? 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. just want to read article one section one because it's very
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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. eight, a bill for universal background checks, it's at the senate desk. it's the senate that hasn't acted. and yet i heard republican leader as recent as today at a press event when asked when the senate was going to take up gun safety legislation, when we're going to take up universal background checks, he said, ask them, meaning ask the president. after the executive branch --
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asked the executive praise. 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 to others, when we have it in our power right here tonight to take up a life-saving measure. the majority leader also said we are in a holding pattern. what are we holding for? as more and more americans die, 100 per day from gun violence. and, mr. president, in my state of maryland we have been the victims like every other state ngof people dying by guns. we had a mass shooting. it was at the capital gazette newspaper. five souls taken. we had a school shooting in maryland at great mills highd.
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school in southern maryland. and every day we see people in maryland being inflicted and harmed by gun violence in our streets and neighborhoods. and maryland has actually done something aboutta it. as the state we 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 lot of us upheld by the supreme court of united states. we require a a permit to purche a gun. so someone might ask, okay, maryland pass these laws as a state. why do have a gun violence problem? well, if you look at the figures from batf, you look at their gun tracing statistics, you find
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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 and to act as a country, until we pass universal background checks, maryland will continue to be vulnerable to the negligence of other states, 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.
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because after we had 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 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. w he went on to say, and i quote, i think we can bring upe background checks like we never have before, end quote. after the shooting at marjory stoneman douglas high school, he called some memories of congress to the white house, including senator murphy. senator murphy tald about the importance of background checks. the president told him, you
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know, you've got a new president now. 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 nra, gets a call from the gun lobby and you get a headline like this one which we saw in august 20, 2019. nra 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 backpedals, and that's where we are now. that the president stalling,
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pretending, going through these sort of fake actions, pretending we are to get there. i hope we do get there, but the president has said and done in the past is no confidence which is why i i come back to the vey place i started, which is that this body, united states senate, has its own responsibilities under the constitution. the constitution article one gives the house and the senate the lawmaking 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 t lives. we are 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.
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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. eight. the majority leader doesn't think the people of kentucky will support h.r. eight? it's his prerogative to vote no. that's the right of every senator. but what's outrageous, madam president, is blocking every other senator in this body from exercising our right 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
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epidemic that was killing 100 of our fellow americans every day. so let's stop ignoring our responsibilities. let's stop pointing to the other end of pennsylvania avenue. there is really no time to waits thoughts and prayers will not end the gun violence. senate action and a vote on h.r. eight c can help save lives of e united states of america. and every single day that goes by that we don't take that vote is a dayy that this body is complicit in more deaths by gun violence. i yield the floor. >> madam president? >> the senator from a white. >> thank you, madam president. i want to recognize my friend
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and colleague senator murphy for his moral leadership on this issue for continuously demanding that all of us do better, all of us do more to address what is an epidemic of gun violence. and we are 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 of the gun safety legislation to the senate floor for a vote. 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 inf our country with this type of frequency. and what's shocking, not going to 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
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to our second mac writes, but that we've allowed the second amendment rights. but we've allowed, to turn into a partisan question the democrats are out on the floor saying why do we figure out what we can do to make people safer than on the other side of the chamber is exactly no one. t 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 stripes, democrats, republicans, gun owners agree that common sense gun safety reforms are the way forward. this means background checks. it means no guns for violent
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criminals are domestic a,, 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. .. >> it is no coincidence the two steepest drops in murder rate came after the passage of two sets of significant gun laws. the first were the national firearms control act 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
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decrease in violence that followed their passage proves that progress is possible. and here is 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're now focused on and sad about and depairing about. and that's not the way to look at this. sure, there are individual situations where if we-- where if we pass background checks, it would absolutely help, but it's 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.
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and this isn't some partisan attack from me, partisan democrats, this is literally what leader mcconnell said. he said he will not schedule a vote or schedule a debate on the house pass bill to expand checks, and the president indicated he would not sign it. and senator mcconnell said if we knew he would pass a bill, instead of serial votes. >> that's not how we are supposed to operate. we're supposed to be the world's greatest deliberative body. we're not supposed to be playing mother may i with the president of the united states before initiating a debate. and the idea that in this body when today we voted on what was it the eau ambassador, the
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ambassador to sweden, i think, not that those are unimportant matters, but we had full post cloture debate time we were in a quorum accumulate. no one was talking. we can't afford to set aside 30 hours or 50 hours for 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 talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but then he back tracks. in february of 2018 in the wake
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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 guns and purchases of transfers, trump threatened to veto the bill as passed. and during a televised meeting with lawmakers, the president proposed raising the age from 18 to 21 and then h backtracked. more recently the shootings in texas and ohio that left 29 dead and dozens wounded, trump tweeted on august 5th, washington must come together to get strong background checks. sounds pretty good on august 14th, days later, he reversed court. and talking with the n.r.a., just remember, we have a lot of background checks and warned of gun control's quote, slippery slope. the president has a long
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history of changing his position on guns. in 2011 he was against gun control. in 13 he supported background checks, a year after that 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 honest broker as it relates to immigration, he's just not reliable. that's how he rolls. we don't have to be downstream from all that. we're the article one branch. we can to what -- we can do what we decide to do to be the greatest deliberative body. and we keep hearing from republicans, gun violence is not caused by guns. to equity the president directly, mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger and not guns.
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mental illness and hatred pull 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've made in destigmatizing mental health services. now, mass shooters and regular people experience mental illness at the same rate. there's no indication that mass shooters or individual people who are homicidal experience mental illness at any higher rate than your general population. so blaming the mentally ill is factually untrue, but it's more insid why us -- insidious than that. about 20% of americans at some point need mental health
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services. and it's not just the availability of care, it's also 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're the ones that should be cracked down on. that's 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're
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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've made as a society to destigmatize mental health. we've fundamentally changed the way we've talked about it and because of that we've helped to reduce the shame around living with meant health 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 certainly shouldn't be blamed for the gun violence epidemic in our country. i want to lead 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
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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 this country. we need 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, to 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. hch . >> madam president. >> senator from connecticut. >> thank you very much, madam president. let me thank once again my colleagues for being here on the floor with us this evening
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for the compelling testimony of senator schatz and senator casey and senator brown, senator van hollen and so many who have joined us. we have a few more that will come down later in the evening. but i want to take a moment to put a statement on this issue. there are 100 americans who are killed every day by guns, 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 aptally pointed out it can can't be because of mental health because we have no more
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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
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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 after summer with th in boston, connecticut, cape verde and st. thomas. he was known as lil bill and his friends described him affectionately as a great person, a phenomenal soul, greatest 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. he kept us on our toes and his smile lit up the room. and another said never one to follow trends, leo was intent on making his own path through unparalleled ambitions.
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he was a creative soul with a deep love expressing himself through music and loved fiercely without bonds. leo placed a priority on making sure that family and friends were happy and that each person feel like he was the most important person in the world and he loved parents and did everything he could for them and he wanted to take care much his mom, the way that she took care of him. leo, on september 8th of 2019, just a few days ago, was shot in the head and the neck while sitting in the passenger seat of a friend's car. the friend hit the accelerator and drove him as fast as he could to bridgeport hospital, but he was pronounced dead. leo spencer was one of the 100 americans who die every day from gun violence.
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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 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 have been affected by gun violence because when you grow up in places like bridgeport where kids literally fear for their life, walking to and from school. the trauma associated with the fear of losing your life from guns violence. it ruins your brain. we call this a public health epidemic not to be cute with
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our words, but because that's what it is. when you don't know whether you're going to make it the rest of the week as a child and studies show a criminally high number of young people are 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's a moment in your life where you face a risk that's so great. a danger that's 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 us make that quick decision. many of us may have never actually faced that moment and frankly, i don't hope that anyone ever has, but when you grow up in a place like the east end of bridgeport, you
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face that decision. fight or flee, on a weekly basis and what doctors will tell you that these kids' brains who grow up in these neighborhoods are literally bathed in cortisol. now, cortisol when it comes in and out in an instant once 0 are twice in your life, it can be helpful, but when it's flowing through your circuitry on a regular basis it literally corrupts your brain, it corrupts your brain. and so it's in incident that all 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, cannot create lasting relationships. brains that have been at trophied by the daily fear for their lives because this congress has done nothing, nothing to address their
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reality. so we're down here on the floor today to tell you about people like leo so maybe our colleagues who aren't responding to the number 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 withhe most kids that are going through this life-altering cycle of trauma, but i'd 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 the poorest neighborhoods in baltimore, trying to give them
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a pathway of hope, a ray of sunshine in their life. so i went up to talk 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 and she explained to me her path out of the corporate room to programming for kids like a matthew henson and what the program brought to the kids. in the middle of this conversation the intercom starts blaring a recorded message, code green, code green, code green. i didn't know what a code green was. joni didn't know what a code green was. shortly thereafter a teacher opened the door into our classroom, shut the blinds, turn off the lights. and so we did as instructed and we sat there a little nervous, not knowing what a code green was. shortly thereafter, someone
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from the main office, knowing there was a united states senator in a second floor classroom called up and joni answered the phone and was told that a code green means that 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 elementary school in baltimore, there was a shooting within a block or two of the school and here is 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 w morning, a young man by the name of cory dodd brought his two twin little girls to school that morning. he was doing a solid for his wife home tending for their relatively newborn child, cory decide today bring the kids to school that morning himself.
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he drove home, a couple 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 sits at the door waiting for her dad to come home and she was there waiting for cory. and her mom had to tell her, he would never come home he had been shot outside of their house that morning. as that code green was happening inside that that elementary school and kids were probably having fun wondering when the lights were going to come back on there were two little girls never going to see their father again, told in a matter of hours that this shooting had 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, my mom next, that cycle of trauma, the cortisol that bathes kids' brains a reality for all of the kids in the neighborhood and that's one day i happened to be
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in baltimore. imagine that it isn't just coincidence, imagine that's the reality day after day after day for kids in 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 can'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.
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and studies show that there was a 40% reduction in the gun homicide rate after connecticut passed that law. okay? well, that's just one state, you say. 40%, that's pretty serious. it's a pretty big return on one change in the law. give me another state to say. okay. let's take a look at missouri. which did the opposite. a few years ago, it repealed its perfect permit law that requires you to get a background check with every sale of a weapon in missouri and guess what happened? a year later, gun homicides went up by 23%, controlling for every other factor that could have explained it. during that period, homicides were going down in missouri and they went up in missouri and found out that in fact, in other states, what did go up in the other states were the number of weapons used in crimes that came from missouri. all of a sudden you need a background check for missouri
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so if you want to traffic guns to another 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 with universal background checks, why? they're not coming from states like connecticut they're coming from states, you guessed it with no universal background checks. guns being used in chicago don't come from chicago. the guns being used for new york city don't come from new york city. 1% of guns used in crimes in new york city come from new jersey, do you know why? new jersey has universal background checks. and they're coming up from georgia and north carolina and places where you can go to a
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gun show and get a truckload of guns without ever having to go through a background check. background checks work. they're the most impactful public policy measure. since the background check law was passed in the mid '90s, 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 prevent them from buying a gun. these are the people that went into the gun store and tried to buy a gun and got denied. there are billions and millions of more people that wanted guns, but couldn't get them and didn't go into the gun store in
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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 thate found another way. a private seller gave him a gun and didn't require him to go
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through a background check. he took that gun and he used it to kill seven people and injury 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 universal background checks could have changed the outcome. one of the first mass shootings that sits in my consciousness, that and 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 is what is so
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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, everybody wants background checks. universal background checks, they don't want just to expand to commercial sales. they want hr-8. they want hr-8 which has 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 hr-8. don't tell me that this issue is controversial. it's just controversial in this
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bubble. it's not controversial out in the american public and it's not a blue state or a red state issue. background checks are just as popular in georgia as they are in connecticut. and we don't have to wait for the president to tell us what to do. senator mcconnell has a different copy of the constitution than i have. my copy of the constitution says that none of us are required to give permission slips from the president before we act, before we do something that we think is good for the country. 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 openly admit that they don't act unless the president tells
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them 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 pin r -- win you a lot of support back home. mr. -- 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 hesslin. because i made a commitment to read this every father's day after the shooting in sandy hook. and i forgot to do it this year. and so this is a makeup effort.
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i won't talk too much about what happened in sandy hook this morning, i spent plenty of times talking to my colleagues about it. unfortunately there's a macabre club in the senate that have to walk with colleagues through the horrific mass shootings maybe it's not the one where the five years old lost their lives and one of the things that happens in the wake of these mass atrocities, you get to know the parents, brothers, sisters, they've become friends of yours and i feel like i have this personal obligation to the families in sandy hook separate and aside from the global obligation i believe to human beings in this country on the issue of gun violence. amongst the parents one i've become closest to is a gentleman by the name of neil
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hesslin. jessie lewis was 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 hadn't been an easy life for ne neil. jessie 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 never ever thought this would happen to him and it's a reminder that there go the grace of god any of us could be victims, could know a victim. so why sit on our hands and do nothing if we could do something. so let me finish, madam
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president, by reading an excerpt from neil'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 hesslin. juicesy lewis was my son. he was a boy that loved life and lived it to the fullest. he was my best friend. on december 14th, he lost his life at sandy hook elementary because after 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 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 14th, jessie got up and got ready for school. he was always excited to go to school. i remember on that day that we
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stopped at the misty vale deli. it's funny what you remember. i remember jessie got the sausage with some hot chocolate and i remember the hug he gave me when i dropped him off. he just held me and he rubbed my back. i can still feel that hug. and jessie 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 he'd say i want to make you happen. half the time i felt like he was the parent and i was the son. he had so much wisdom and he
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would know things and i had no idea how he knew. whatever he said he was always right and remembered places we'd been and things we'd done i'd forgotten about. i use today think of him as my tiny adult. he had an inner calm and maturity and teachers would tell me about his laugh how he made things at school more fun just by being there. if somebody were unhappy, jessie were make them feel better f he heard a baby crying, he wouldn't stop until he got the kid to smile. jessie 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 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 jessie 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
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he yelled run. another person says he told everybody to run now. ten kids from my son's class made it to safety and i hope to god something jessie did helped them survive that day. what i know is that jessie wasn't shot in the back. he took two bullets, the first one grazed the side of his head and didn't stop him from yelling. the other hit him in the forehead, both bullets were fired from the front. that m leans tt thing my son did was look at adam lanza straight in the face and scream to his classmates to run and last thing he saw was that coward's eyes. jessie grew up just like i did i started shooting skeet and jessie had an interest in guns. he had a bb gun. he knew gun safety he could recite it to you and he got it. i think what he would have got what we're talking about here today. he liked looking at pictures of army guns and knew they weren't
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for him, they were for killing people. before he died, jessie and i used to talk about maybe coming to washington some day. he wanted to go up to the washington monument. when we talked about it last year, jessie asked if when we would come could we meet the president. i'm a little cynical about politicians, but jessie 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 jessie 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
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legislati legislation, take these senseless weapons out of the hands of people like adam lanza. do something, he said. do something. 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, to whatever you want, but let's not stay silent any longer. i yield the floor. >> madam president, senator from rhode island, we are here tonight when we should not be.
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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 1st, 2019. this year alone. these tragedies have galvanized the american public in support of sensible restrictions on guns.
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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 is determined to be a danger to himself or others. 86%. you couldn't 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
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them and we wouldesndo 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 toresham and spent that money in politics in
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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 probably seg gates any foreign donations so they're 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 arrest of maria butina, an evident n.r.a. go-between. the irs 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 fec is so locked up on this that they wouldn't investigate. and commissioner weintraub
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wrote some allegations are too serious to ignore, too serious to take the n.r.a. 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 through politics through the n.r.a. it goes on. last fall the legal center filed complaints with the commission alleging the n.r.a. was avoiding the rules, with the various senate campaigns. the complaint alleged that the
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n.r.a. and campaigns coordinated spending through a g.o.p. media consulting firm. what had the media consulting firm done? 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, the shell corporations, these supposedly separate companies, shared facts, office space and resources so that the firm coordinated the ad buys between the n.r.a. and the campaign. once again, the sec did nothing so the campaign legal centers had to sue the federal election commission in district court. the n.r.a.'s political spending more than quintupled between
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the supreme court, more specifically since the appointees on the supreme court allowed unlimited anonymous monies into our political system. from 10 million in 2010, the year of the 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 group did? they wrote back to us in the
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same letter from the same lawyer. some independence. and of course, we're still waiting on the fec to take any action at all. by way o a visitors guide to the sewer of modern politics inhabited by the n.r.a., ask you nan must consent that an article from the trade called "a guide to every known investigation of the n.r.a." being appended to my remarks as an exhibit. i'll close where i began, madam president. there have been 293 mass shootings since january 1st of this year and the american public has an extraordinarily common voice for red flag laws, for expanding federal background checks, closing the
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gun show loophole, banning assault weapons, and banning large capacity magazines, and we don't listen to the popular will here because of the menace that the n.r.a. has become in our politics. the anti-democratic menace that the n.r.a. has become. i yield the floor. >> 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


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