U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today spoke on the Senate floor on the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Senator Mikulski expressed her condolences to the people of Newtown, as well as addressed the need to limit access to military-style weapons and provide adequate mental health care screening and treatment to help combat future mass tragedies.
"Know that I will join with my colleagues to reinstate the assault weapons ban. I plan to work with Senator Feinstein to introduce a bill that will deal with military-style weapons and high-powered bullet clips. Weapons of war have no place on our streets, in our schools or in our homes. We need to be able to look at the issues around gun control and ammunition control, but that's only one aspect of it. We also have to look at the issues related to mental illness," Senator Mikulski said. "Today, the funerals in Newtown begin. Our mourning will go on for a long time, but our work must continue over the days and the weeks ahead. I intend to work with my colleagues in order to change the law and change the culture of violence."
Senator Mikulski's remarks on the Senate floor, as delivered, follow:
"I want to join with other Americans in extending my deepest condolences to the families in Connecticut, those 26 families who face a tragedy of such enormity that it is impossible for the mind to comprehend and the heart to endure. That is the murder of 20 sweet, innocent children and six teachers who died protecting their children.
"When we look at the photos of the children, we see in many of them the faces of our own families. We can only imagine the agony that they are facing right now. I want to extend my heartfelt support to them and also to all those who responded to the tragedy. Those right on the scene, the school principal who literally put herself in the line of fire to protect her students and try to alert them through the intercom system, to teachers in the classroom and a teacher's assistant who literally shielded them with their own bodies and their own know-how. Then there were the policemen, police and other law enforcement who went in to the school not knowing what danger and horror they would face or how they could make sure they could rescue the children.
"There were the ambulance drivers who raced to the scene; paramedics and even grief counselors need counseling at one point.
"In this situation the families bear this incredible grief, but we all do. So whether for those people on the scene, whether for those who had the permanent wounds of the bullet or whether those in Connecticut and those families who will bear the permanent impact of this tragedy, we lift our hearts in prayer for these victims. And we lift our voice to end violence in America.
"We must look at ending violence in our country. We need to be able to look at the issues around gun control and ammunition control, but that's only one aspect of it. We also have to look at the issues related to mental illness. Because for those who suffer mental illness, whether it is those who have the onus themselves or their families who try to cope with it, are often alone and helpless. That is not by way of explanation or by excuse of what happened in Connecticut or what happened in Colorado, or what happens all too frequently in our society. There is a pattern, particularly of young men over the age of 18 and below 30, that seem to fall between the cracks for the help that they need to be able to deal with those demons inside of themselves. We need to be able to focus on that.
"I agree with the President who said last night that these tragedies must end, and to end them we must change. Not because of a single law that can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. We must do more to protect our children and our communities, not only with words, prayers and vigils, but actually with deeds.
"Know that I will join with my colleagues to reinstate the assault weapons ban. I plan to work with Senator Feinstein to introduce a bill that will deal with military-style weapons and high-powered bullet clips. Weapons of war have no place on our streets, in our schools or in our homes. For those who cry, 'oh, it's regulation.' We regulate food. We regulate cars for our safety. We need to now look at regulating guns.
"But know that as I also said, we must also look at the issue of mental illness, particularly in young adults. Our colleague, Senator Lieberman, is proposing a commission on violence. I'm often skeptical of commissions, but I believe if Joe Lieberman headed up that commission and we looked at it, it would come out with an action plan. If there was a pledge to support the recommendations of that commission, I would also be able to support it.
"We need to look at guns, mental health and those things that really glorify violence in our society or glorify that somehow or another guns are a solution to every problem that you have.
"Today, the funerals in Newtown begin. Our mourning will go on for a long time, but our work must continue over the days and the weeks ahead. I intend to work with my colleagues in order to change the law and change the culture of violence."