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Gun Violence Eclipses Fiscal Cliff Debate

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. It's difficult to focus on the task at hand in the aftermath of a shooting rampage in my district yesterday. With at least 10,000 people in a shopping mall, a young man allegedly, say some eyewitnesses, in body armor, and armed with a semiautomatic weapon discharged 60 or more shots. There were two people killed and a young 15-year-old girl seriously wounded.

Mr. Speaker, one is haunted by these events. We had one in Aurora, Colorado, at the theater where there were 12 people killed, 60 wounded; six people killed at the Sikh temple this summer; and the day spa in Milwaukee, where three women were killed before the shooter turned the gun on himself. We had a horrific episode earlier in my congressional career in Springfield, Oregon.

It is hard to have meaningful conversations on a variety of subjects. I was going to deal with that problem with the fiscal cliff today, but gun violence is another area in America where it seems we can't have a discussion without delusional claims of overreach and taking away hunting rifles. Congress won't even allow statistics on gun violence to be gathered, and we certainly have made no progress towards closing the gun show loophole.

Yet I come today, in the aftermath of this tragedy, with a small ray of hope. When nearly half of all military suicides are committed with privately owned weapons, the Pentagon and Congress are moving towards establishing policies to separate at-risk servicemembers from personal private weapons. Congress is poised to enact legislation to end a prohibition about the military collecting information about firearms kept at home. These are simple, commonsense steps for an armed services where more military personnel take their own life than who die in battle.

Perhaps if we can take these reasonable steps to protect our servicemen and their families, perhaps we can develop the courage to treat the epidemic of gun violence with the same thoughtful, small steps when it comes to protecting the rest of our families. Until then, we will mourn the victims and thank God that our families were not at that mall.

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