Ms. FUDGE. Madam Speaker, it is with great sorrow that I rise today to address the senseless murders that took place in Newtown, Connecticut, this past Friday. Mass shootings are always difficult to bear. This one is exceptionally disturbing due to the loss of so many children and those who bravely tried to protect them.
The massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School will forever be embedded in our memory, as will the photos of 20 children as young as 5 years of age who perished in that school, a place that should be safe, a school. These innocent children will never have the opportunity to enjoy their teenage years, to go to a prom, or have families of their own. We owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers who lost their lives trying to shield our children from this senseless crime.
I stand here today unable to make sense of what is a completely incomprehensible situation. We may never know what compelled the shooter in this tragedy to use such high-powered weapons to inflict pain on so many innocent people, but what we do know is that these kinds of crimes are on the rise in our society.
Gun violence, and the culture associated with it, has become so prevalent that now our babies can't even go to school without fear of being gunned down in their classrooms. We've seen this kind of violence on a college campus in Blacksburg, at a high school in Columbine, and now at an elementary school in Newtown.
Since 1982 there have been more than 60 mass murders carried out with firearms across this country. In the last 5 years alone we have had 19 mass shootings. That's a rate of more than one every 4 months. These are alarming numbers, and we as a Nation must be willing to do something about it.
There have been calls by some for meaningful action, but I implore my colleagues that what we really need is immediate action. The issue of eradicating gun violence is ripe, and we must act now.
The first thing we must do is ban assault weapons of all types. Their only purpose is to kill the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time. Tragically, the Newtown shooter used a military-style weapon to perform his evil deeds.
Weapons with the ability to carry out such deadly force do not belong on our streets. I challenge anyone to justify the use of these weapons anywhere but on the battlefield for which they were designed.
Proponents of gun rights say that there is an absolute right to bear arms. I disagree. All rights are subject to reasonable restrictions. But what is absolute is that I have a right to leave my home without being shot. People have the right to worship their God without being massacred. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary had an absolute right to go to school without being gunned down. No one sends their child to school expecting that they won't come home.
I understand there are many factors that contribute to these unforgivable acts of violence, but we must start somewhere. It is time for us to have a serious and deliberate conversation about a comprehensive national gun policy that eliminates loopholes in the laws and requires uniform background checks. Enforcing current laws is not getting the job done. We must do more to ensure that our citizens feel safe and secure in their homes, schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, and neighborhoods. We cannot wait for another Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, or Newtown massacre. We must take action now.
I ask my colleagues, where do you stand? Whose side are you on? I'm on the side of every man, woman, and child killed in senseless violence. Who in this House can be against commonsense gun safety regulations? Anyone who is is on the wrong side.