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Public Statements

Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. I thank the Senator from New Jersey for his comments.

The Presiding Officer and I and others have discussed how we felt this weekend. I can't think of anything that has more emotionally roiled the Nation. There have been few such events in my lifetime. All of us feel the senseless killings last Friday in Newtown, CT, made no sense--just hit everybody. If we feel so deeply, we can't begin to imagine how the families must feel--the families, the parents of the children, the siblings or spouses of the adults killed. We pick up the paper, turn on the radio, listen to the television, and there is one more wrenching story after another.

In my family, and I know in families from coast to coast, parents called their children. Brothers called sisters. Neighbors reached out to neighbors. We huddled with two of our three children, soon to be with a third one in Vermont, hugged our grandchildren. Over the weekend and again today, in discussions in churches, synagogues, houses of worship, on the sidewalk, in the grocery line, at the worksite and in our offices, we have all struggled for words to describe our feelings of shock and our feelings of immeasurable sadness.

I think we can all agree no matter what our political background, no matter what part of the country we come from, that last night President Obama gave voice--our voice, 325 million Americans gave voice to let these stricken families know how deeply we wanted to help relieve their suffering as we share their grief. It was a time when the President can and should and did speak for the whole Nation.

But there are so many questions about this unspeakable tragedy that have yet to be answered. The President has pointed out it is unlikely any single step or package of steps or this move or that move can erase the chance of such a tragedy happening again. We know it could have even been worse if the brave first responders hadn't rushed into the school even though they knew they might be facing death themselves. We know that sometimes things are beyond our understanding. We know situations vary widely from State to State and community to community. But whether it is in the State of Connecticut or, God forbid, in the State of the Presiding Officer or my State, we all share the responsibility of searching for an answer not just for the people of Connecticut but for people throughout the United States, and some can honestly say the people throughout the world who look to the United States as a bastion of freedom, of democracy.

I think Congress can and should be part of this national discussion in the search for answers. We will come back into a new session in a few weeks. The Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing very early in the next congressional session to help in the search for understanding and answers. I know all of us will take part in that no matter what our feelings might be.

There are other committees also that have different types of jurisdiction and will have to take part in this national discussion. It isn't a matter of just guns--which is a significant part of this, of course--it is the matter of mental illness; it is a matter of how we run our educational facilities. All of these things should be talked about. If there are practical and sensible and workable answers to prevent such unspeakable tragedy, we should make the effort to find them and then we should have the courage, each and every one of us, to vote for those steps.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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