Ms. LEE of California. Madam Speaker, our hearts are grieving with the entire Newtown community and all the families who lost loved ones last Friday. We mourn the 26 innocent lives, including those 20 children who have been lost in this unimaginable tragedy. Let me also just acknowledge the quick action of the brave law enforcement and first responders who prevented additional losses of life.
Words cannot express my deep sorrow, but as a mother and as a grandmother I join the country and my district in extending my condolences to every family and the entire community touched by this unspeakable tragedy.
This violence must stop. As President Obama so eloquently said on Sunday, we cannot accept that this violence visited on children year after year is somehow the price of freedom. No more excuses, Madam Speaker. No more kicking the can down the road. Not one more innocent life--not one more in Chicago, not one more in Oakland, not one more in any town, in any city, in any school, in any theater, or in any place of worship, in any mall, or in any of our neighborhoods. We have an obligation to our children to ensure that Newtown marks a turning point that made us finally say, enough is enough.
My district, unfortunately, knows these weapons of war oh so well, where too many innocent children continue to be killed in these war zones. We must come together to build an America where our children do not have to live in fear and where they do have a future.
Madam Speaker, we need to take some serious action that includes gun safety by banning these high-capacity magazines, expanding the 24-hour gun background check, closing the gun show loophole, and reinstituting the assault weapons ban immediately. This of course includes ending violence in our homes, in our streets, and in our communities.
By seeking input from young people, community stakeholders, the faith community and others, we need to work together to identify the root causes of this country's more than 16,000 homicides a year--this also includes recognizing gun violence as a critical public health crisis--and continue to support comprehensive violence prevention plans.
I've heard many say this over and over again, but we also must focus on making mental health care widely accessible and affordable. As a psychiatric social worker and someone who founded a community mental health center when the psychiatric facilities were beginning to shut down, I understand firsthand why we need to look at how we have to help people struggling with mental illness and make serious progress in treatment and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.
All of this of course is going to take resources. Nowhere do we know this more than in my own congressional district in Alameda County and in Oakland, where we know all too well the impact of budget cuts on violence and crime. We cannot allow any cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that might prevent families from getting the psychiatric help and support that they need. How else can we look at our children and our grandchildren this holiday season if we don't move as a Nation to finally address this violence that threatens the very core of our country?
In the coming weeks, all of us must work with President Obama, Senator Feinstein, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, Congressman Bobby Scott and all of our colleagues to be brave and to be bold enough to pass measures that ensure gun safety and a comprehensive solution to ensure that our children have a future in a peaceful Nation.
Madam Speaker, we can and we must do all of these things and more so that we can prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.
On behalf of all my constituents, let me express once again our thoughts and our prayers for all of those impacted by this tragedy in Newtown and the entire State of Connecticut.