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Public Statements

Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I happened to be on the floor and hear the remarks from the majority leader. I would like to thank him for his support of this legislation. It is extraordinarily important to me, to the people of my State, and, I believe, to a majority of Americans. I hope to make that clear during my remarks.

I would like to also thank the 23 cosponsors of this legislation. They are in alphabetical order: Richard Blumenthal, Senators Boxer, Cardin, Carper, Cowan, Durbin, Franken, Gillibrand, Harkin, Hirono, Klobuchar, Lautenberg, Levin, Menendez, Mikulski, Murphy, Murray, Reed, Rockefeller, Schatz, Schumer, Warren, and Whitehouse. I am very grateful for the willingness of the Presiding Officer and the others to step up, show courage, and do what is right for America.

There are all kinds of things we confront as Members of this great Senate. There are issues of national security, the economy, health care, immigration--all tough issues.

People often ask me why I care so much about assault weapons and why I stayed with this issue for more than 20 years.

The answer is this: In my view, the proliferation of this specific type of weapon goes to the heart of what kind of society in which we want to live. It goes to what kind of culture we are going to raise our children in, which brings us to the horrific massacre at Newtown, CT, 4 months ago.

Sandy Hook--and much has been said about it, but I can't forget--Sandy Hook was a safe school in a safe town. Candidly, it was inconceivable that such a tragedy could happen there, but it did. I can't exaggerate how this senseless murder of 20 beautiful young children and 6 incredibly brave adults affected me and millions around this country. I think it is fair to say that this event really shocked the conscience of America.

The pictures of these little victims still bring tears to the eyes of millions. I am very impressed with this one page of the New York Daily News. I carry it when I speak to people, trying to get their votes. Some say no, and I look at this picture of these smiling faces, and in the middle, ``Shame on U.S.'' This was the cover of the New York Daily News. I think it carries the message of what we are trying to do here, and I hope to demonstrate that during the time that I speak.

I think the despair that we all felt, for some of us, has changed to determination. I believe that this amendment over time will finally begin to address not only the wanton, brutal violence, but the weapon that is often used to carry out this wanton, brutal violence.

To have a chance at understanding these mass shootings, we need to understand how they are perpetrated and by whom.

It is impossible to know with any certainty what motivated Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter. We know he exhibited clear signs of mental disturbance. We know he had an extreme aversion to normal social life, and he didn't like physical contact. He was in and out of school and spent time in special education classrooms and was home-schooled by his mother. He lived in a room with blacked-out curtains and played violent video games for hours on end.

We know his mother purchased assault weapons for him and kept an arsenal at home. We know that they went target shooting together at ranges and that both were certified in gun safety. Their home was a veritable weapons depot, with many firearms, more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition, samurai swords, and even a gun safe in this young man's room.

It has been reported that Adam compiled a spreadsheet documenting hundreds of victims of mass murders--something he may have used as a measuring stick for his own sadistic plot.

We know one more thing: None of this information would have been caught on a background check. I say this although I support background checks. But this shows what is out there, which needs to be stopped.

On that December morning, Adam Lanza started his rampage by killing his mother. He then drove to Sandy Hook and shot his way into the school. He was heavily armed. This is what he carried: a Bushmaster XM15 assault rifle, a Glock handgun, a SIG Sauer handgun, ten 30-round magazines, and a Saiga 12-gauge assault shotgun. In less than 5 minutes, he fired at least 154 rounds from the Bushmaster in 2 classrooms. He stopped only when first responders arrived. He then took his own life. He died with 139 more rounds available to fire.

I am sure background checks would stop many would-be murderers, but they would not have prevented Newtown. The weapons were legally purchased by his mother. While he was disturbed, he had no criminal record or record of mental illness and would not have been subject to a background check because his mother gave him these weapons.

Let me be clear: Universal background checks are very important. I strongly support them, but they would not have prevented the tragedy in Newtown.

I have watched these mass shootings escalate over the past 40 years--four decades of my public life. Twenty-nine have taken place in just the past decade, seven in the past year. Military-style assault weapons are often the weapon used in many of these shootings.

Just 3 days before Newtown, an AR-15 assault rifle was used to kill two people and seriously wound a third at a mall in Clackamas, OR.

Five months before Newtown, a gunman opened fire in a theater at a late-night performance of a brand new movie. He killed 12 and injured 58. The only reason he didn't continue was that this drum that he had in his weapon--a 100-round drum--jammed at approximately 50.

Although the Aurora shooter was being treated by mental health professionals, he owned a small arsenal of weapons, including a Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, two Glock .40 caliber handguns, and a 100-round ammunition drum.

A number of weapons were used in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, where 13 were killed. The weapons were a TEC-DC9 assault pistol, a Hi-Point 9mm Carbine, a Savage pump-action shotgun, and a Savage 311-D 12-gauge shotgun.

High-capacity ammunition magazines also play a role in these mass shootings. In 2011, a gunman in Tucson used a semiautomatic Glock handgun equipped with a 33-round magazine to kill 6 and wound 12, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. In 2007, a Virginia Tech gunman used 2 handguns and at least 19 magazines to kill 32 and wound 17. Some of these magazines were 15-round versions. All told, he had nearly 400 rounds to fire.

Has this ended with Newtown? Was Newtown such a stirring event on the conscience of America that no one would try it again? What is the answer? The answer is no.

On March 18, just 3 months after Sandy Hook, a former student at the University of Central Florida planned to set off a fire alarm in his apartment and kill students as they fled. A roommate saw him with these weapons and called the police. The police came quickly and were able to prevent another massacre. Here is what he had: a .22 caliber assault rifle, known as German Sport Guns GSG-5; a .45 caliber handgun; two 110-round magazines; 4 homemade explosive devices; and a stockpile of approximately 1,000 rounds.

On March 31, an AR-15 assault rifle was used to assassinate a district attorney and his wife in Texas. The district attorney's wife innocently opened the door of their home. A gunman shot and killed her with a single bullet. As her husband turned to try to get to his weapon, he was killed in a burst of at least 20 rounds. This is the offensive nature of these weapons.

A shooting many years ago--because I came to know some of the victims who survived--encouraged me to submit the first bill in 1994. This was an attack by a man named Gian Luigi Ferri in a very high office building in San Francisco, CA, called 101 California Street. He came in and killed eight. He had two TEC-9s and magazines holding 50 rounds of ammunition.

He killed a young mother, Jody Sposato, 30, who had recently

given birth to her first child. Her neighbor said, ``She just had that little, lovely baby 10 months ago.'' I came to know Jody's husband, Steve, who was a wonderful, tall man who used to come to see me with his baby in his arms. I am delighted to see that he remarried and made a new life for himself.

Ferri also killed Donald ``Mike'' Merrill, who had recently adopted two children, a son and a daughter, ages 4 and 2, with his wife Marilyn.

One of the wounded, a beautiful young woman, Michelle Scully, was saved because her husband John died while jumping on her body, shielding her from the gunfire.

This is how these events unfold. The tragedies they leave behind are actually never completely recoverable.

Over the years, as I have watched, I have come to see that these weapons are attractive to two groups of people. There are collectors, there is target practice, some hunt, and some think they offer a strong defense. This is one group. But death tolls show there is another group who covet these firearms more for their deadly firepower--most notably, grievance killers, gang members, and juveniles.

Let me mention the grievance killers. Their goal is to kill indiscriminately. These are weapons that are easy to fire quickly. They can fire many times without overheating, and they can carry ammunition-feeding devices that exceed 100 rounds. These are the weapons of choice of this group of people. The question is, Can this group of people, who will kill with these weapons, buy these weapons easily? The answer today is yes.

These weapons are attractive to gang members because pistol grips and folding stocks make them easy to conceal and maneuver. These weapons pack enough firepower to confront other gangs as well as the police.

I would like to tell you one other story from my home town that touched me deeply. In 2004, undercover police officers Isaac Espinoza and Barry Parker confronted a man at the corner of Newcomb Avenue and Newhall Street in San Francisco. As the officers approached, the shooter pulled out an AK-47 from beneath his coat and fired 14 rounds, killing Officer Espinoza and injuring Officer Parker, both of whom were armed.

Officer Espinoza was a real star in the San Francisco Police Department. Everyone liked him, and he had real credibility on the streets and in the community. He was very special. He had been a police officer for 8 years. During that time, he received four major service awards. Police Chief Greg Suhr, the current chief, said he wouldn't have been surprised if Officer Espinoza rose to be the chief himself one day. But he is gone. He left behind his wife of 7 years, Renata, and their daughter Isabella, who was 3 at the time of his murder.

Finally, assault weapons are attractive to juveniles because they are lightweight, have little recoil, and are easy to fire.

The takeaway is that nowhere seems safe from these acts of mass violence, made all the more deadly because of the military features of these particular weapons.

These mass killings aren't confined to dangerous areas. They happened in a mall in Clackamas. They happened in a movie theater in Aurora. They happened in a temple in Oak Creek. They happened in an office in San Francisco. Worst of all, they happen now in schools. Schools used to be safe places, but now we confront the legacy of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Newtown.

President Obama relayed the story of a murdered child's mother. She said she hates when people say her son was ``in the wrong place at the wrong time.'' When are schools ever the wrong place? Schools should always be the right place for children and they should always be the right time. And that is why we must take action.

I am relieved we are finally debating the issue of gun violence, in particular the amendment I offer today to introduce the Assault Weapons Ban in the underlying bill. It has been 9 years since the first Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, and far too many deaths. The Assault Weapons Ban I offer today as an amendment has one purpose: to begin to dry up the future supply of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines over time, which will save lives. It does not affect any legally owned weapon possessed now.

I fully support the bill to expand background checks, increase penalties on straw purchasers, and strengthen school security. But these provisions are only part of a solution. The weapons I talk about can fire hundreds of rounds a minute with velocities and energy far exceeding the standard handguns. They do not belong on the streets where they can be bought without questions asked.

This amendment bans the future manufacture, possession, sales, and importation of 157 semiautomatic assault weapons by make and model. Let me list some of the most infamous models. We have here a display. They include the AK-47, the AR-15, the Bushmaster XM15, the Smith & Wesson M&P15, the Hi-Point Carbine, the UZI Mini Carbine, and the Intratec TEC-9. They include the MAC-10, the Saiga-12, the Street Sweeper, and all 157 of them are explicitly, by make and model, delineated in the bill.

The bill also prospectively bans the manufacture, sale, and importation of all other assault weapons that can accept a detachable magazine and have at least one military characteristic, such as a pistol grip or barrel shroud.

Finally, the amendment bans the manufacture and importation--as well as the future sale or transfer--of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds. Here are some of these large magazines--and this is the drum that was used at Aurora. In many cases, such as the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, it is only when a shooter stops to switch magazines that police or others have the chance to take the shooter down, and he or she may well fumble in so doing.

Now what does the amendment not do? To clear up some misinformation, it is also important to know what the bill does not do. It does not take away any legally owned weapon. All weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment are exempted. The amendment does not require registration. If an assault weapon is legally owned before enactment and later transferred or sold, the recipient or purchaser must pass a background check as required in the underlying bill.

Finally, the amendment does not affect hunting or sporting firearms. Let me point that out. It protects legitimate hunters by excluding 2,258 specifically named firearms used for hunting and sporting purposes. It took 96 pages of legal bill language to list these hunting and sporting firearms by make and model so everyone can see clearly their hunting or sporting gun is excluded from the bill. It took my staff a long time and a lot of vetting to compile this list, but they have done it.

Some have argued that the legislation would violate the Second Amendment. Candidly, that is wrong. The original Federal Assault Weapons Ban I sponsored in 1994 was repeatedly challenged in Federal Court on a variety of grounds, including the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The Fourth, the Sixth, the Ninth, and the District of Columbia Circuit Courts all upheld the 1994 law, with three of them rejecting challenges based on the Second Amendment.

Since these rulings, the Supreme Court, in 2008, recognized an individual right under the Second Amendment in a 5-to-4 decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller. But Heller itself clearly rejects the claim that Second Amendment rights are absolute. In Heller, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia stated: "The right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.''

And the Court said the Second Amendment does not protect "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purposes.'' Case made.

Also, just like other constitutional rights, the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms is subject to reasonable restrictions. An assault weapons ban is such a reasonable restriction, and no assault weapon ban has ever been overturned by a court of law.

Don't take my word for it. Look at the Supreme Court decisions. Justice Scalia's opinion in Heller specifically stated, ``Weapons most useful in military service--M-16 rifles and the like'' are weapons that ``may be banned.'' And there are weapons that are the like of the M-16 weapon on the street today that are covered by this bill.

Third, an assault weapons ban leaves available ample means for individuals to defend themselves and their families using firearms. This amendment imposes restrictions on one class of weapons--military-style weapons--that are highly dangerous and can kill large numbers of people quickly, with increasing velocity. It leaves open ample opportunities to possess and use numerous types of firearms for defense. I have no question this bill is constitutional.

A second false attack is that assault weapons covered by this ban contain only "cosmetic features'' and are no more dangerous than any other firearm. Nonsense. Law enforcement officers and gun experts are the best ones to go to, and we have. And they have pointed out these features were designed to be added to military weapons to make them more deadly and they have the same effect on civilian versions.

Some examples: The pistol grip was first added to a rifle by the German army in World War II, when it was incorporated in the STG 44, which is called a ``Storm Gun.'' This feature allows a shooter to ``spray-fire'' a large number of rounds over a broad killing zone without having to aim at each individual target.

Folding stocks were added to the M1 Carbine by the U.S. Army in World War II so the weapon could be more easily

transported by soldiers traveling in cramped aircraft and military vehicles. Similarly, UZI manufacturers started adding folding stocks to their weapons in the early 1950s at the request of Dutch and German military who found the traditional wooden stock to be too long for use while traveling in armored vehicles.

Every law enforcement officer who testified on the Assault Weapons Ban in our Judiciary hearing was emphatic that military characteristics add to a weapon's lethality. From Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson: Assault weapons are "meant for the battlefield.'' Milwaukee Chief of Police Edward Flynn: "Military characteristics are not simply cosmetic in nature. These weapons are designed for combat.'' And John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado, couldn't be more clear: These weapons, he said, are ``crafted to be as effective as possible at killing human beings.''

Now where are we today? Seven States and the District of Columbia banned assault weapons prior to the Newtown massacre. These are my own State, California, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

Since Newtown, legislators in 20 States have introduced bills to either ban assault weapons or strengthen existing bans. Twenty States are now contemplating action.

Connecticut and New York passed laws to tighten their existing bans to prohibit assault weapons with one military characteristic, which is what we do in this bill.

Maryland expanded an existing ban on assault pistols to cover rifles and assault shotguns.

In Massachusetts and New Jersey, bills have been introduced to strengthen those States' assault weapons bans.

Efforts are also underway to prohibit these deadly weapons in States with no current assault weapon ban. In Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia, bills have been introduced to impose an assault weapons ban for the first time.

All of these States have strong hunting or sporting traditions, but the sponsors of these bills recognize that no one needs an assault weapon to hunt or target shoot.

In other States, bills have been introduced to regulate assault weapons. An Arizona bill would require the sale of any assault weapon be done through a licensed gun dealer.

Bills in Kentucky and Texas would require one to obtain a license to purchase an assault weapon. The Kentucky bill would also require the registration of assault weapons and handguns. That is Kentucky.

Some bills have been introduced that would go even further than the amendment I have introduced today. California is seeking to strengthen its ban, going from a one-characteristic test to a zero-characteristic test. This bill would prohibit any semiautomatic rifle capable of accepting a detachable magazine.

A bill in South Carolina would require the government to seize any assault weapons used in certain crimes.

Even though more States are banning assault weapons, the need for a Federal ban has never been greater. If only California or New York bans assault weapons, nothing stops an individual from buying an assault weapon in a neighboring State, then crossing the border to commit violence. At a Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Durbin mentioned that guns are coming into the city of Chicago which are being traced to the State of Mississippi.

I believe if this legislation does not pass, we will see bills passed in a number of States. That will result in a confusing patchwork of laws with different standards in different States. If this bill goes down, States will, I believe, pass additional legislation. It is only a question of time.

Some suggest there may not be enough support in the Senate to pass the Assault Weapons Ban. But the support is there among the American people. In poll after poll, that support is there. In no poll--even with all the discussion, even with the mobilization of gun owners and the NRA, a majority in every single national poll done shows that the majority want controls over assault weapons. I know of no poll done this year that shows less than a majority to reinstate a Federal ban on assault weapons. We have more than 170 organizations covering a wide range of groups that have endorsed the bill. Here are a few:

Major Cities Chiefs; International Association of Chiefs of Police; American Medical Association; American Academy of Nursing; American Academy of Pediatrics; National Education Association; American Federation of Teachers; the Children's Defense Fund; the Sierra Club; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; the United States Conference of Mayors; the National League of Cities; more than 800 mayors from across the country; Tom Ridge, former Governor and Homeland Security Secretary; John Warner, former Republican Senator from Virginia.

Few bills ever have such broad support, and I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a list of endorsements.

I have also received letters and calls from Americans across the country, from all walks of life, including gun owners, who demand that we stop these weapons of war from claiming more innocent victims. I even had a member of the NRA call me and say, ``I am a hunter and I have an AR-15 but I don't need it, and I am turning it in.''

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record excerpts from these letters.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN OF 2013

Law Enforcement: International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Police Executive Research Forum, Police Foundation, Women in Federal Law Enforcement, Chaska, Minn. Chief of Police Scott Knight (former chairman of the Firearms Committee, International Association of Chiefs of Police), Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne

Localities: U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, Boston City Council, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Anthony Smith, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors, Ventura County Board of Supervisors

California Mayors: Alameda Mayor Amanda Gilmore, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte, Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder, former Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Orange Cove Mayor Gabriel Jimenez, Petaluma Mayor David Glass, Pleasant Hill Mayor Michael Harris, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant, Saratoga Mayor Jill Hunter, Tiburon Mayor Emmett O'Donnell

California Cities: Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Lemon Grove, Los Angeles, National City, Petaluma, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Stockton, Ventura, West Hollywood

Gun Safety: Arizonans for Gun Safety, Arizona People Acting for a Safer Society, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Ceasefire Oregon, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, Protect Minnesota, StopOurShootings.org, Violence Policy Center, Washington Ceasefire, Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, Women Against Gun Violence

Education/Child Welfare: 20 Children, American Federation of Teachers, California PTA, California Teachers Association, Child Welfare League of America, Children's Defense Fund, Every Child Matters, Los Angeles Community College District, MomsRising, National Association of Social Workers, National PTA, National Education Association, NewSchools Venture Fund, San Diego Unified School District, Save the Children, United States Student Association

Religious: African Methodist Episcopal Church, Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches of the South, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Friends Service Committee, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, Camp Brotherhood, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Health Association, Catholic Health Initiatives, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Catholics United, Church of the Brethren, Church Women United, Inc., Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Dominican Sisters of Peace, Faiths United To Prevent Gun Violence, Franciscan Action Network, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Health Ministries Association, Heeding God's Call, Hindu American Foundation, Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, Islamic Society of North America, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Reconstructionist Movement, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Mennonite Central Committee, (Washington Office), National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Council of Churches, National Episcopal Health Ministries, NETWORK (A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby), Pathways Faith Community, Pax Christi USA, PICO Network Lifelines to Healing, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Rabbinical Assembly, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, San Francisco Interfaith Council, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, USA, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sojourners, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, United Methodist Women, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Washington National Cathedral, Women of Reform Judaism

Health care: American Academy of Nursing, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Surgeons, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, California Medical Association, Doctors for America, National Association of School Nurses, National Physicians Alliance, Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco Mental Health Association, Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research, Society of General Internal Medicine

Other: Alliance for Business Leadership, American Bar Association, Black American Political Association of California, Center For American Progress Action Fund, Grandmothers for Peace International, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, League of Women Voters of the United States, National Parks Conservation Association, NAACP, Precision Remotes, Sierra Club, TASH, VoteVets.org, Washington Office on Latin America

Former Elected Officials: Former California Governor Deukmejian, Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, Former U.S. Senator John Warner
--
Constituent Letters in Support of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

PAUL D.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... There is no practical distinction between the rate of fire produced by this weapon and that produced by a fully automatic machine gun. While one weapon is clearly illegal, the other is legal because the outdated words used to describe it suggest a distinction that no longer exists. This dangerous inconsistency has essentially undermined existing law, putting the practical equivalent of banned weapons back on our streets.

The result has been devastating for our community and too many like it across the country. Legally, logically, and morally, your obligation is clear: we need you to take action now. Please support S. 150.......

GINA M.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... Six children at Sandy Hook School were able to squeeze past the gunman in a doorway because he had to stop to reload. How many more would have been spared had his magazines been smaller? Think of those children, who had to watch their teacher and classmates brutally murdered in front of their eyes, now think of your own children. Think of your grandchildren. Think about the parents and spouses who have to live with the horror of knowing their children spent their last few minutes in terror and in pain as the bullets shredded their flesh. Think about the survivors of that massacre, also victims, who will have to deal with their own mental health issues for decades to come.......

RICHARD A.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... Our pediatric practice lost several patients. I held two of these babies in my arms in the delivery room when they were born. And I was at the firehouse that night with the older brother of one of our children.

This event has altered so many lives. One mother told me, having lost her daughter, that her sons saved her life.

These guns, these bullets blew open these children's heads, their bodies, their limbs. In what kind of society do we live, whereby these weapons are needed to defend and protect?

Do we need to splatter bodies and blood in order to defend? Do we need to shatter bones and decapitate our tyrannical governments? How can anyone justify these self proclaimed weapons of mass destruction......?

MICHELLE D.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... No one should have to live in fear. No one should have to live looking over their shoulder while shopping in a mall, grocery store, taking in a movie, attending school or simply going about their lives. No one should have to put their kids on their school bus and fear that they may not come home. NO ONE.......

CHRISTINA D.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... We have no more time to waste. We must change for those lost at Sandy Hook, for the town of Newtown, for our country, for our children. We must protect our nation's people.......

PO M.--NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT

I am a mother of four children (who graduated from Sandy Hook Elementary School) and the shooter lived in my neighborhood. We lost our neighbors, educators, and principal on that dreadful morning on December 14, 2012. Our neighborhood is one of the safest places in this country. Sandy Hook Elementary School was one of the most nurturing environment for my four children therefore we were in a state of shock when we heard the horrific news on December 14th.

I believe stronger gun regulations would have saved lives on that tragic day. I also believe if millions of people in this nation demanded change after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson and Aurora then maybe just maybe this type of massacre in our neighborhood elementary school could have been avoided. It is unacceptable for us to not take action. Too many Americans are dying every year. You acted swiftly and boldly to institute measures to improve public safety after September 11th and you must do the same after December 14th. We have the right to feel safe in our schools, malls, movie theaters, places of worship, work place, salons and on our city streets.

I made a promise on December 14th that I will no longer stay silent and do more to save lives by writing, e-mailing and calling the lawmakers. I traveled down to Washington DC with 40 Newtown teachers, clergy, parents, students, other members of Newtown Action Alliance and families of victims on February 26th and 27th to meet with congressional leaders and to attend Senator Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban hearing. We shared our stories of tragic loss, our pain and we asked many of you to honor the 26 lives by helping us to turn our tragedy into meaningful action and change. Please have the political courage to save American lives by banning military-style assault weapons, prohibiting gun trafficking, requiring universal background check on all gun purchases and limiting high capacity magazines. You have the ability to save lives and I am asking for your leadership.

AIMEE P.--NEWTOWN, CT

..... Over the past two months, I have brought meals to neighbors who have lost children, and wept with friends who have had to tell their six-year-olds that five of their young friends had died. I have seen surviving Sandy Hook students cling desperately to their parents, to their dolls, to their dogs. I have watched parents of surviving Sandy Hook students withdraw from their support systems. I have seen my own son, who just turned three, develop a sudden fear of monsters. The effects of this shooting, even in a community as supportive and loving as Newtown, will be with all of us forever.

In the time it took Adam Lanza to reload, children were able to escape. While it is unrealistic to think that we can stop every incidence of gun violence in this country, we have a moral obligation to do what we can to reduce the unacceptably high rate of gun-related deaths every year. A weapon that can put eleven bullets in a six-year-old in a matter of seconds has no place on our streets or in our communities.......

MERLYN L.

..... I have been a member of the NRA since 1979 and I am willing to state they have gone way too far. They are promoting anarchy and overthrowing the government. Why are we allowing people to shoot each other at the movies and in schools? This is sick, we don't need these weapons. We got rid of the Wild Wild West a long time ago.......

DOUGLAS M.

..... End this madness with people believing they have some right to own any kind of gun they wish and that it can shoot as many bullets as possible without reloading. Guns today have turned into a kind of game in which many people who have never served in the military pretend to be at war.......

MARY L.

..... I am a life-long Republican, but fully support the ban on assault weapons. I also support the universal background checks as proposed by President Obama.......

JIM S.

..... As PAST NRA members, I fully support President Obama's gun control plan. The NRA has no business in our government.......

..... I spent 22 years in the U.S. Army defending our country--two of those years in Viet Nam.

ROBERT A.

Please stand strong with President Obama regarding meaningful gun control legislation--specifically regarding assault rifles. I carried them in the army and in Viet Nam. They are made for two purposes and two purposes only--to kill as many people as you can in the shortest time possible and kill a person with as much damage to the person as possible!!! There is no need for civilians to have these weapons of mass destruction.

PAUL N.

I am a multiple gun owning hunter and target shooting enthusiast. I also support MUCH tougher gun control laws, far beyond just assault weapon bans. We need to have strict registration and control of all weaponry as well and closing the ease of purchase loopholes.......

GORDON S.--COTTONWOOD, CA

As a gun owner, I have given up membership in the NRA, whose solutions to gun violence seem outrageously stupid ...... I'm not a big Obama fan, but his stance, in light of mass gun violence on our ``babies'' seems reasonable. The NRA'S statement of position, it seems to me, leads us into a spiral of hate and destruction that may be violently braced from the ``other'' side; our lives do not have to become ones of revenge and fear.......

BARBARA C.--ARROYO GRANDE, CA

My mother was killed by a gun blast when I was 13 years old. I am now 76 and the pain and memory remains....... I accept individual that hunt and feel a need to protect themselves in isolated areas, however our gun culture has caused many like me to suffer beyond words and the loss of young and too many lives.......

UMA L.--VIRGINIA TECH

...... Had there been a ban on high capacity magazines, I am confident the death toll, the injured toll would not be as high as it was. Had my father's murderer used an assault weapon that day, I know for certain that many who are alive now--many who have become my friends--would not be with me today.......

...... The day my father went to teach--went to die, really--he was sick. He was running a fever, and even though it was April, he felt cold. My mother didn't want him to go in, but he went anyway. That was the type of man he was--he believed in his duty, and he always did it. He was right where he was supposed to be--the right place at the right time. And yet, he never came home. He never came home because he was dead, and that was how I saw him next. Though I tried to warm his hands, they were like ice. And when I said goodbye, his lips were cold and there was no laughter. For the first time ever, my father is somewhere I cannot follow .......

...... Somehow, the impact of gun violence and what it means to lose someone is something that we don't talk about in this country. It's as if the subject is taboo, a dirty secret to be shoved under the carpet.......

...... Here's what we do talk about: our right to the second amendment. We talk about the right to bear arms and the right to protect ourselves. We talk about the right to carry our weapons in the street, our right to have them on our person at all times. We talk about the right to arm our children, our parents, our country. We talk about our right to bear the arms we like and our right to shoot the bullets we like.

Since my father's passing, I've heard many things. Some of these comments include: ``I know you're grieving, but it [the loss of a parent] is part of the natural order.''

Or:

"If your father'd had an assault weapon that day, he'd still be alive.''

Or:

"It was a tragedy. A battlefield was created that day. If only someone'd had a gun.''

..... I find each of these statements to be appalling .....

..... Death by gun is something that should never become normal. The idea of a battlefield becoming part of the common course of everyday life horrifies me......

..... Your everyday life should not be a battlefield. It should be a place where you are safe, where you can go about your business without fear. No one should have to worry about facing down the barrel of a gun. Not when they are at home, far away from a theatre of war.

Assault weapons and high capacity magazines are both things that belong to theatres of war....... In Seung-Hui Cho's case, he fired more than 158 bullets in less than ten minutes at Virginia Tech. His gun never jammed, and there was no window of opportunity for someone to tackle him. Had he had lower capacity magazines, a window of opportunity might have opened, and the casualties would have been less.......

..... While some claimed that high capacity magazines would be necessary in the hypothetical situation of five or six attackers, the fact remains that it is a hypothetical. The issues we are discussing now are not hypothetical--they are painfully real. The murder of my father is not a hypothetical. It is real, and it happened because a sick boy got his hands on a gun and high capacity magazines and used it to murder. If he had not had access to guns, much less high capacity magazines, I would not be writing this letter today.......

PATRICIA M.--TUCSON, AZ

..... The shooter was stopped, not by another man with a gun, but by two ordinary citizens there that day to talk with our Representative, Gabrielle Giffords. If the shooter was forced to reload because the magazine only held ten or 15 bullets Roger and Bill might have been able to tackle him sooner--and fewer human beings might have been murdered or wounded, fewer families wrenching with the pain and sorrow of a loved one being murdered on a sidewalk.

That high capacity magazine coupled with a semi-automatic weapon gave horrific killing capability to the shooter.......

MELISSA L.

..... In my 30 years as an RN working in Trauma centers, I have witnessed the destruction of guns--the useless senseless destruction of life. I am appalled that the NRA and other gun advocates do not believe in gun control and background checks. I support your efforts and the efforts of President Obama.......

CLIFF P.--HEMET, CA

..... I understand that there are many fine people that are NRA members, but, at some point, they are going to see that their beliefs are being ignored by the money that is poured into the NRA by the gun makers.

As to my personal stance on this issue, I actually did a little hunting when young. I have friends that like to keep a gun in their home. I'm just a guy that cannot find any reason for assault weapons being in the hands of anyone outside of law enforcement.

GARY W.--LAKE FOREST, CA

..... As a former marine and gun enthusiast, I support your bill completely. USMC boot camp was 12 weeks long, of which the combat school and rifle range portion was 5 weeks long.......

..... I bet no more than 5% of the purchasers of assault weapons of all kinds know anything about the PROPER care and maintenance and use of the new toys they bought.

DORIS J.--SANTA ANA, CA

..... I am a second generation native Californian and licensed gun owner who whole-heartedly supports your efforts to ban private ownership of assault weapons and multi-round clips.......

JEFF M.--WATSONVILLE, CA

I am writing to you as a gun owner. I FULLY SUPPORT your initiative to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Thank you for standing up to those who say it will never happen. I say it can.

SARAH W.--SAN PEDRO, CA

..... My six-year-old niece, Allison Wyatt, was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The pain felt by my family and the entire community is indescribable.

I am writing to offer my assistance and the assistance of my family members in securing support for gun control legislation. We are willing to help in any way we can. .....

SHWETA N.--LOS ANGELES, CA

..... renew the assault rifle ban in the United States. As a pediatrician, I have seen too many suicides, accidental deaths or injuries, and homicides resulting from laxities in gun safety and control.

I must advocate for my patients, who cannot speak with their own vote. Please stand for gun control. .....

GARY V.--CLOVERDALE, CA

I am a gun owner, former Fresno California police officer, San Mateo County probation officer, correctional counselor and court administrator. I spent 17 years of my Career dedicated to law enforcement and corrections mostly in California.
I support a complete ban on the possession of any ..... assault rifle or military weapon designed to fire more than 7 rounds of ammunition without reloading. .....

..... When your everyday citizen has access to such firearms it presents an enormous threat to police, fire and everyone else in the community. None of my fellow police officers, probation officers, etc. ever supported the possession of assault rifles or military weapons in the hands of the general public. We all knew it was a bad idea we had to deal with the danger it created daily.

It is time for the madness to stop and for meaningful legislation to be passed ..... The 2nd Amendment has been grossly interpreted by a group that plays on fear and generates enormous wealth for weapons manufac-Ðturers. .....

STEPHEN R.--SACRAMENTO, CA

..... I am 18 years old with plans for my life and I do not want to have to live in fear of dying young. I am absolutely sick of innocent people dying because of guns, and I am absolutely appalled that people are vehemently against banning firearms and other assault weapons. I fully support your move to ban assault weapons. I am young and I want to live my life in peace. I demand the right to live in a country free of the fear of gun violence.

THOMAS P.--SACRAMENTO, CA

..... I grew up in Shasta County and was raised on a family cattle ranch. Guns were part of our everyday life and I have used them to hunt ..... I understand the concerns of rural gun owners and I do believe that their rights should be protected. But protecting those rights must not come at the cost of all of our safety. For too long, people have been able to buy dangerous (nearly-automatic) weapons in secret and amass dangerous arsenals of weapons that have no legitimate purpose. .....

..... The same people who claim that they will go bankrupt if taxes are raised one nickel, don't bat an eye at spending thousands of dollars on a new gun. .....

..... People in some parts of the state are now talking openly about how their second amendment rights are there to enable them to defend against government tyranny. This seditious talk is very frightening. I can't imagine what these people think would result from armed conflict with their own government ..... These people seem to think they are going to be heroes in some post-apocalyptic fantasy; they have lost their foothold on reality and they are very dangerous.

..... Please let these delusional whackos know that they are not living in the state of Jefferson, they are living in America, and we are a country of laws. .....

SUSAN E.--SAN DIEGO, CA

..... I am a retired educator, who has experienced school violence first hand. I was the only administrator on campus when Andrew Williams killed two students and wounded 13 others at Santana High School ..... This senseless violence has to come to an end. The rights to life and safety have been forgotten in the rhetoric over 2nd amendment rights.

MINDY F.--SAN FRANCISCO, CA

..... I was doing my job, I was protecting my kids and I was being a positive citizen in my community. I was exercising my right to the freedom of my religion and Buford O'Neal Furrow (a convicted felon out on parole who was deemed mentally unstable by authorities) tried to take all that away from me. And because of the easy accessibility of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition clips guns in this country he was able to do that without a second thought.

To me the idea of living in a free country is the ability to live my life to the fullest. To be allowed to celebrate my faith alongside others of many faiths and not be persecuted for it ..... To be allowed to walk through life without the fear of being gunned down on the job. .....

..... I hope that this letter reminds those voting on these bills that there are real people and faces that are dealing with these tragedies. We are not just stories and not just victims. We are survivors what want to make sure what we lived through can never happen to anyone else. .....

To conclude, not every issue we vote on in the Senate is a life-or-death matter. I deeply believe this is. Since the original Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, there have been more than 460 incidents involving assault weapons, and here they are listed, 460 of them.

The most important duty a government has is to protect its citizens' safety. When 20 beautiful first graders are slaughtered, our government has failed that duty. When 12 are killed and 58 are wounded in a movie theater--a safe place--our government has failed its duty. When people are gunned down in malls, parking lots, and their offices, our government has failed that duty.

I do not believe our values are stronger because we allowed individuals to own weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing as many people as possible. And we must not resign ourselves to these tragedies. They cannot become just another fact of American life. We have a duty, I deeply believe, to take steps to stop these mass murders that have one common element--the use of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Through hearings and markups, we have heard no compelling reason not to pass this legislation. Not a single court decision has been cited that suggests a ban is unconstitutional. No one can credibly dispute law enforcement testimony that assault weapons are more lethal than other weapons. A majority of Americans support taking action.

I urge my colleagues to vote on this amendment based on its merits, not with an eye toward politics or ratings from gun lobbying groups. It is a time to stand tall. As Gabby Giffords said: You must act. Be bold. Be courageous.

So I ask you to stand with the thousands of police chiefs and law enforcement officers who support this bill. Stand with the doctors and other health professionals who support this bill. Stand with the religious leaders who support this bill. And stand with the victims of gun violence and their families who support this bill. The time has come to take these weapons of war off our streets, away from criminals, grievance killers, and the mentally deranged. I urge my colleagues to stand tall and support this amendment.

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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, I wish to oppose amendment No. 719.

Amendment No. 719 would create a public safety crisis by forcing nearly every State to recognize the concealed carry permits issued by other States, even if the permit holder could not qualify for a permit in the State to which he is traveling.

Imagine this: A man convicted of a domestic violence crime against his former girlfriend obtains a concealed carry permit from his State. Under amendment 719, he could travel across State lines and confront his ex-girlfriend, even if she lives in California, where his conviction would have prevented him from obtaining a concealed carry permit.

In other words, States with the weakest conceal carry permitting standards will set the national standard regardless of existing State laws.

States vary widely on how to regulate concealed weapons. For example, California prohibits possession by individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors; requires completion of a firearm safety training course; gives law enforcement broad discretion to approve or deny a concealed carry permit application; and requires applicants to show that they have ``good moral character'' and ``good cause'' to carry a concealed weapon.

On the other hand, Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that at least 28 States grant concealed carry permits to individuals convicted of stalking; at least 7 States grant those permits to people convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery; at least 12 States grant permits to individuals with no firearms safety training; and at least 9 States grant concealed carry permits to teenagers.

Ignoring these differences, amendment No. 719 would allow nonresidents who cannot meet a State's permit standards to carry a concealed weapon into the State.

This amendment would also endanger law enforcement officers. According to the California Police Chiefs Association, there is currently no national data system that records legitimate concealed carry permits, so it is impossible for an officer on the street to determine whether a permit is valid during traffic stops or other high-risk situations.

The vast majority of States have either rejected reciprocity or limited it to States with equivalent or higher standards. In fact, several States--such as New Mexico, Nevada, Arkansas, and Wyoming--have rescinded reciprocity with other States that no longer meet the State's minimum standards.

Major national law enforcement organizations--including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association--as well as the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the American Bar Association, and Faiths United, are also joining with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to oppose amendment No. 719.

Congress should not support a law that undermines State law protections, puts our police officers in greater danger, and allows unfit and dangerous individuals to carry concealed weapons in another State.

I urge my colleagues to join with me in rejecting amendment No. 719.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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