Senator Jay Rockefeller today issued the following statement calling on Congress to immediately act to protect children and families from gun violence.
"Making sure our children and families are safe each and every day should be our top priority. Sadly, last Friday, we learned in an absolutely terrible way that we haven't done enough. No parent, sibling, or loved one should have to endure what 26 families are suffering through right now. Unfortunately, families lose loved ones every day as a result of gun violence. Too many young lives have been taken from us too soon, and Friday's unspeakable actions are another stark wakeup call that we must do more. This is not the time for soft words and empty promises, but a call for strong action.
"I voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994, which also included a ban of high capacity clips, and it's unacceptable that it hasn't been reauthorized. West Virginia has a proud hunting tradition and respect for the Second Amendment. But most hunters I talk with know that prohibiting the use of military-grade weapons or clips that can fire dozens of rounds in a matter of seconds will not impact those traditions, nor do they have a place on our streets. We need to pass a bill that will again prohibit such weapons.
"Preventing gun violence is a clear issue here, but this horrible tragedy also brings to the forefront the need for a renewed national dialogue on mental health. Today, Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services in the U.S. Unfortunately, as both state and federal budget cuts have mounted nationwide, both inpatient and community services for children and adults living with serious mental illness have been downsized or eliminated. We must fix that. Despite the federal mental health parity law passed in 2008, which is in place to end insurance company discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health, there is an incredible shortage of mental health providers across the country -- including West Virginia. This is yet another area where action is necessary.
"We also need to look at the violence our kids see every day starting at a young age. By the time children reach 18 years old, they have seen tens of thousands of violent images -- on television, the internet, or video games. As parents, research confirms what we already know -- these violent images have a negative impact on our children's wellbeing. While we don't know if such images impacted the killer in Newtown, the issue of violent content is serious and must be addressed.
"This horrific tragedy shook communities across West Virginia and the country. But sadly, incidents with guns kill Americans throughout this country every day. And I've heard from families in West Virginia who have lost loved ones, including their own children. It would be a travesty if we only looked at Friday's attack -- as well as the many other senseless tragedies we've seen -- in silence and refuse to act. I'm pushing for that action now before we have to mourn more innocent lives lost."