Washington, DC -- Speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) called for a national discussion on how we can better protect our children from gun violence. In reiterating his support for an assault weapons ban, he also questioned the need for civilians to have access to military weapons.
Video of Senator Cardin's full floor statement can be downloaded here or viewed here.
"I want to express my deepest condolences, on behalf of the people of Maryland, to the families of the 20 students and the six adults who lost their lives at the hand of a single shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories of the innocent lives that were cut short. The pain and grief of the families and friends of these students and teachers are unimaginable. ... We send out prayers to all.
"This is a tragedy beyond words. I think president Obama said it best last night that "our hearts are broken.' But as other Senators have said, we need to take action. Congress needs to come together to take action to protect the safety of our children. We must do better. There have been too many episodes in which children's lives and others have been lost. We must figure out a way to prevent these types of tragedies.
"Such a conversation must include a discussion about the culture of violence that permeates our culture today, including the glorification of violence to our children and young adults. We see too much of this violence and it has to have an impact on young children.
"We need to know how we can responsibly deal with this type of circumstance and we must include a discussion of mental health services provided to Americans, especially our students. Many of us have talked about this in the past. We have to be more aggressive in dealing with the mental health needs of all the people in our community.
"As Chairman Leahy and others have pointed out, we must discuss the ready access of individuals to weapons. I know there are different views in this Congress. I must tell you that I do not understand why we need to allow access to military-style assault weapons and ammunition. I strongly support Senator Feinstein's effort to reinstate the expired 1994 ban on assault weapons, including a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
"Senator Durbin raised a very valid point: We regulate automobiles and we regulate consumer products -- we should for public safety. We should regulate firearms for public safety reasons too. There is no need for assault weapons to be held by the public. In my view, there is no legitimate reason for a civilian to possess a military-style weapon or to have large-capacity ammunition clips.
"Congress also should examine whether we can strengthen our background check system for gun buyers, along with criminal penalties for those who illegally purchase or transfer guns. We need to take a look at safety locks to protect children. We also need to look at those who have multiple gun purchases and we need to look at gun-show purchases. All of these should be examined to see whether or not we can make our communities safer without infringing upon the legitimate right of individuals to possess guns. Sportsmen should be able to use guns for hunting.
"Sportsmen's rights obviously will be protected, but we can do a better job in protecting public safety. We've talked about this before and we need to act. We need to act in a comprehensive way that will make our society safer. I pledge to act on behalf of the safety of our children."