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Public Statements

Gun Violence

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MURPHY. Mr. President, on December 14 of last year the world watched in horror as we received news that in Sandy Hook, CT, 20 6- and 7-year-olds as well as 6 of their teachers and professionals who were charged with caring for them were killed at the hands of a gunman wielding a semi-automatic rifle armed with multiple 30-round clips. Twenty-six people died in that school that day, and the world has not been the same since.

The State of Connecticut, as well as many other States, including New York and Colorado, passed some of the strongest gun laws in trying to bring some common sense to our gun laws in a generation. However, this body, in the days since Sandy Hook, has done nothing.

We debated a bill which was supported by 90 percent of Americans that would extend background checks to most all gun sales in this country so we could make sure criminals and people with serious mental illness didn't have their hands on guns. Even though the measure received 55 votes here in the Senate, it didn't become a law because of a strange rule we have requiring 60 votes for most everything that comes through this place.

While everything we have done here has been driven by the memory of what happened to those 20 beautiful little first-graders in our State, the fact is 28 people died that day--including the gunman and his mother--but that is still less than those who die every day in this country at the hands of gun violence.

The everyday deaths that occur in our cities and suburbs throughout our country have become like raindrops in this Nation. We have become callously used to the fact that people die due to guns in our country at a greater rate than almost anywhere else in the world.

I intend to come down to this floor week after week until we get our act together and do what the American public wants us to do, which is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and try to get the most dangerous weapons back into the hands of law enforcement and the military. I am going to come down here week after week and tell the simple stories of the dozens of people who lose their lives every day due to gun violence.

Since December 14--that awful, terrible day--3,966 people have died at the hands of a gun. By the end of today--depending on how tonight goes across this country--that number could be 4,000. We are averaging about 30 a day all across this country.

While people have gotten to know the people in Sandy Hook due to some amazing reporting that has taken place, people don't know the stories of the people who die every day. So I am going to come down here every week and tell the stories of those people to give voice to these victims.

First I will focus on Hartford, CT, where a few days ago--May 8--Felix Jesus III was killed when he was simply going to sell a Samsung electric tablet to someone who agreed to buy it over craigslist. His father said this guy kept calling and calling. The guy arranged for my son to meet him, and he said he would be right back.

At around 8 p.m. on May 8, police received a 911 call, and they found him dead in his car suffering from a single gunshot wound.

His father said:

They took my son, my only son. Now his kids are left alone with nobody except for us, that's just not right.

Felix had two sons, a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old. He was going to sell a tablet computer, and he was shot in the head and died, leaving a 1-year-old and 2-year-old behind. He was doing everything he was supposed to do. He graduated from high school, and he worked at a local hotel. He was engaged to be married and left behind two children.

The day before, on May 7, out in northern California, a 45-year-old man fatally shot his wife and their two young daughters in their home, and he got away. His wife Sandy and

their two daughters, Shelby, who was 8, and Shasta, who was 4, had been shot multiple times.

There had been calls out to the home for domestic disturbances in the recent weeks. The kids were pulled out of school. Something was clearly going on in that house. This guy was a dangerous guy. In 2002 he had been charged with distribution of drugs, felony possession of a firearm, and possessing a machine gun, and he pleaded guilty. He had been in prison for 10 months.

We are still trying to figure out, only about a week later, if this guy was supposed to have weapons in the first place. We know, even if he was banned from buying weapons, it would not have been that hard for him to get them. We cannot say for certain how he came across the weapons that killed his wife and two kids. Even if he was, as a criminal, on one of these lists, it would not have been that hard for him to simply go to a local gun show or go on the Internet and buy a weapon. If he went either of those routes, according to current law, it is likely he never would have been checked to see if he was a criminal.

Sandy, 34, Shelby, 8, and Shasta, 4, were killed on May 7.

Steven Jones was killed that same day. He was a lifelong resident of Charlestown, MA. He was 21 years old. His friends said everybody loved him. No one would ever expect something like this to happen to him. He wasn't in the streets. He was into sports and partying. This was a shock. Steven Jones was breaking up a fight when a gun went off, and he was killed. His uncle said he was the definition of a good kid. He was there trying to break up a fight, and he ended up getting shot. He was 21 years old.

By now everybody knows what happened over the weekend in New Orleans. A gunman opened fire on people who were marching in a neighborhood Mother's Day parade. The FBI described it as a flareup of street violence which resulted in 19 people being wounded, 10 men, 7 women, a boy, and a girl. The children were both 10 years old. Luckily they were just grazed by the bullets, and they were reported to be in good condition.

There are so many weapons on our streets today, and most of them are illegal. These shootings happen day in and day out. Mostly it is not the same situation as what happened in New Orleans. Mostly it is not 19 people being shot at a parade. Mostly it is just one-on-one gun violence, but we refuse to do anything about it.

Since the tragedy in Newtown, CT, 3,966 have died from guns, and our response is nothing. It was awful enough to read about the violence at that Mother's Day parade, but I want everybody to know what kind of Mother's Day Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan, had on Sunday, what kind of Mother's Day it was for Nelba Marquez-Greene, the mother of Ana, what kind of Mother's Day Francine Wheeler had without her son Ben or Jackie Barden had without her son Daniel.

As awful as it was to think of 19 people being shot in New Orleans at a Mother's Day parade, it was just as horrifying to read an op-ed these four mothers submitted yesterday on Mother's Day. They wrote:

The gravity of the moment that comes with holding your child for the first time--looking into their eyes, rocking them to sleep, allowing their breath to fill your heart, marveling at how nature has taken a part of you and a part of your husband to create someone uniquely beautiful--the seriousness of that moment is only eclipsed by the moment you discover that your little boy or little girl is forever gone, just a few hours after watching them wave at you from the school bus window.

These mothers said:

We are constantly asked, "How do you go on?'' The answer lies in the promise we made to our children when they were born, and perhaps more important, the promise we made when they were so senselessly taken from us.

That promise for those four mothers is to do something and try to make sure that never ever happens again. The promise they made was bigger than that. They are trying to do something for the 4,000 families who have lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands, and wives since Sandy Hook happened.

Nicole, Nelba, Francine, and Jackie came to Washington, DC, day after day, week after week, and pleaded with this place to do something. They were joined over that period of time by hundreds of other family members also representing the 3,966 families who have been grieving since then.

There has been some level of optimism that we have the capacity here to revisit this legislation; that sometime later this year we can take another shot at trying to make sure another Sandy Hook doesn't happen. We can take another moment to reflect on whether it is OK that thousands of criminals can go onto the Internet or walk into a gun show and get a gun without ever having to show they have the legal capacity to do that. I hope that is the case.

As a means to getting people to that moment where we can try to have some coming together on behalf of all of these families, I encourage everybody to read this op-ed written by Nicole and Nelba and Francine and Jackie. It is called ``Keeping A Mother's Promise.'' Because if, after reading this, people in this Chamber can look these mothers in the eye and say that in the wake of Sandy Hook and in the wake of 4,000 other deaths since then, our answer in the Senate is to do nothing, then what on Earth are we here for?

Mr. President, I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


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