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Mr. LAUTENBERG. Mr. President, on this floor we talk a lot about the critical importance of family. I frequently speak about my family, my 10 grandchildren and 4 children, who are the foundation and inspiration for everything I do. But for some Americans, the family is instead a source of fear.
Domestic violence wreaks havoc in our homes and our communities across the country. The statistics are shocking. Every year 12 million women and men in our country are victims of rape, physical violence, and stalking. The numbers are shocking. They represent a national tragedy. But these are not just numbers, they are lives. In 2010, 38 of New Jersey's domestic violence incidents ended in death. I have visited women's shelters in New Jersey, and I have seen fear in the faces of women holding their children. It takes a lot of courage for a woman to stand up and leave her abuser. As a society, we have to be able to tell these women they will have a safe place to go, they will have resources to help them, and they will see justice for their abuser.
Today we are debating legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which for almost 18 years has provided women with support programs they need to escape abusive situations. Make no mistake, VAWA is working for women. Since its passage, occurrences of domestic violence have decreased by more than 50 percent. But despite this incredible progress, these horrible acts continue.
In fact, our progress should inspire us to work harder. Domestic violence programs in our communities are on the front line, and they are starved for resources. More than one-third of New Jersey's domestic violence programs report not having enough funding to provide needed services, and approximately one-quarter report not having enough beds available for women and children trying to escape violent situations. Since 2006, more than 40 programs in New Jersey alone have received almost $30 million in funding through the Violence Against Women Act.
Let me be clear. It would be tragic to turn our backs on victims and the people who dedicate their lives to supporting them. While we cannot stop all malicious acts, we can do more to keep women and their families safe.
In 1996, I wrote the domestic violence gun ban, which forbids anyone convicted of domestic violence from getting a gun. Since the law's inception, we have kept guns from falling into violent hands on over 200,000 occasions. For instance, our gun laws allow domestic abusers to sidestep the ban on getting a gun. The loophole allows a convicted abuser to walk into a gun show and walk out with a gun, no questions asked. That is because background checks are not required for private sellers at gun shows.
Since 1999, I have introduced legislation to close the gun show loophole and keep guns from falling into the wrong hands, and it passed in the Senate with the vote of the Vice President to break the tie. Thirteen years later, this gap in our law remains in place, and people can go to the gun show, walk up to an unlicensed dealer, put the money down, and walk out with a gun. It is an outrage. If we want to protect victims from domestic abuse, we ought to commit ourselves to closing the gun show loophole for the safety of women, their families, and other victims of abuse. Saving the lives of women should be above politics.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act passed the Senate unanimously in 2000 and 2005, and it is incomprehensible that we would turn our back on those who are so abused. I ask those who would vote against passing this bill to think about their own families, think about their spouses, think about their daughters, think about their children.
Every Republican in the committee voted against reauthorizing the VAWA in committee. Every one of them voted against the bill that primarily protects women. They walked away.
Today they have taken a different approach. They presented an amendment, and it is a sham. It actually removes the word ``women'' from a key part of the bill. It also fails to protect some of our most vulnerable victims. Apparently, some of our colleagues would vote against protecting women if it means they also have to protect immigrants and people in the gay and lesbian community.
I call on our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us and our families. We know they care. Show it. Show it in this vote we are about to take. Send a clear message that this country does not tolerate brutality against anyone, and show it with a little bit of courage. Stand and say: No, I want to protect my family, I want to protect those who are abused routinely in our society. That is the plea. I just hope each one of them will look at a picture of their kids and their families and say: I owe you that protection.
We worked hard here with the premise that we are protecting people, so let's show it.
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