Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, last month a group of 26 cyclists set off on a 3-day, 400 mile journey from Newtown, CT, to the steps of our Nation's Capitol. They began their ride with a stop at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a place that should be synonymous with childhood, innocence, and learning. Instead, for now, it reminds us of tragedy. The cyclists left Newtown that morning to bring Washington a simple message: It is time for Congress to finally take steps to stop gun violence.
These riders were not special interest groups or highly paid lobbyists. They were everyday people--teachers, police officers, librarians, healthcare professionals. People like Heather Peck, a school psychologist and mother of two from Newtown, who wrote that she was riding ``for those beautiful smiling faces that I see coming down the hallway each day and their right to feel safe and secure at school.'' Like Gary Lyke of Brookfield, CT, a Vietnam veteran who wrote that he was riding ``in the hope I can help encourage our leaders to join in creating meaningful, common sense laws making it safe for children to grow and inherit the freedoms I and other veterans served for.'' Like Officer Jeff Silver of the Newtown Department of Police Services, who wrote simply, ``I ride for commonsense gun control laws.''
But sadly, in a Nation where polls have shown that a majority of Americans support background checks for all gun sales, the status quo defies common sense. Around our country today, anyone, including convicted felons or domestic abusers or the mentally ill, can go to a gun show and purchase a firearm without having to pass any sort of background check. Studies have estimated that 40 percent of U.S. gun sales are conducted by unlicensed sellers without background checks. In 2012, an estimated 6.6 million guns were sold in this way, no questions asked.
Likewise, in a Nation where studies have shown that mass shootings involving assault weapons result in an average of 14.8 people shot. It is startling that almost anyone can walk into a shop or gun show and purchase the same type of military-style assault rifle that was used at Sandy Hook Elementary that horrible day. This includes suspected terrorists, because nothing in current law prohibits individuals on terrorist watch lists from purchasing firearms, unless they fall into another disqualifying category. Polls have shown that 63 percent of Americans support a ban on the assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines that lead to such horrific crimes.
Legislation has already been introduced into the Senate that, if enacted, would make our society and our schools safer. For example, I am a cosponsor of the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act. This bill would close the `terror gap' in Federal law by denying the transfer of a firearm when a Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, background check reveals that the prospective purchaser is a suspected terrorist and the Attorney General has a reasonable belief that the purchaser may use the firearm in connection with terrorism. I am also a cosponsor of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which would stop the flood of military-style assault weapons into our society.
We should listen to the Sandy Hook riders and take action. We should listen to our law enforcement communities, who have implored us to ban the military-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines which can so easily escalate confrontation into murder and a killing of one or two people into a massive slaughter. No law can prevent all tragedies, but these bills could help prevent some. They could help stop another quiet elementary school from falling victim to a Sandy Hook tragedy. They could help save the lives of children. That is more than enough reason to act. I urge my colleagues to swiftly take up and pass these measures.