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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CLARKE of New York. I thank my colleague for yielding.

Madam Speaker, I've joined my colleague, Dr. Donna Christensen, Representative of the Virgin Islands, here tonight in remembrance of the 20 first-grade children and six educators who were mercilessly gunned down last Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, innocent victims of senseless gun violence.

To the families, educators, and the community of Newtown, Connecticut, on behalf of the people of the 11th Congressional District of Brooklyn, New York, I wish to express my most profound and deepest condolences.

I believe, like so many across this Nation, that the families of these victims, the families of children in every community in the United States, have some very important questions for Members of Congress. I also believe that as their representatives we have an obligation to provide them with answers.

Question: Why? Why have we allowed our communities around this Nation, from a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona to a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, to a shopping mall in Oregon, to an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, to the streets of Brooklyn, New York, why have we been so reluctant in protecting them? Why have we left them unprotected, vulnerable to gun violence, death, and the terror that such actions inflict?

Who will speak for the people whose lives were cut short, struck down, maimed and traumatized for life? When will we realize that these incidents are not inevitable, that we have the ability to prevent gun violence and an obligation to do everything in our power to make gun violence a thing of the past? The answer to these questions will define this generation of Members of Congress. Our answers will determine the future of our civil society.

Americans have the right to demand answers from this Congress. We have the authority to keep the guns away from the streets of our cities and towns. In the 11th Congressional District which I represent in New York City, the New York City Police Department reported 274 victims from 226 incidents involving gun violence, and that was in two neighborhoods in the district that I represent. The majority of these crimes were registered in just two communities; 274 victims from 226 incidents. Now, fortunately, not everyone perished in these instances, but one incident of death is one too many. The repercussions of the trauma that comes from those who witness these incidents, who dodge the bullets in our communities, is immeasurable.

We have the authority to focus our efforts on penalties for gun trafficking and unlawful sales of firearms. We have the authority to prevent the retail sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines or clips that are designed for military combat use. We have the ability to register handguns and micro stamp munitions to trace ownership and origin. We have the authority; we only need to have the courage to act.

The Newtown tragedy has highlighted a vexing issue that we as Americans must address. It is imperative that we set aside our differences in the 113th Congress to pass legislation that will increase accountability among gun vendors and owners, support local law enforcement to stem the tide of gun trafficking across our Nation, reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets, and remove access to high-powered militarized weapons and ammunition which have no place in our communities.

Madam Speaker, this is not a Republican problem, it is not a Democrat problem. This is an American problem, and this is a problem we must have the courage to address.

I want to thank my colleague for yielding. As I drove up to the Capitol for this Special Order this evening, I reflected on the flags waving at half-mast over the Capitol, an indication of the deep grief and sorrow that our Nation faces at this time. I think to my own community, where I've attended far too many funerals of families that have been devastated by the heinous act of gun violence.

I think about a former colleague of mine. As a member of the New York City Council, I unfortunately count myself among the victims who witnessed my own city council colleague being gunned down before us. And so, what we need to understand is that while these incidents may seem remote from many families, the implications of what can happen in our communities extend beyond what we may hear in the news but affect tens of thousands who may not have been the immediate or intended target of gun violence but have been a witness, have been family members, community members, that have a love and a care for the lost one who were taken senselessly and needlessly. Let us muster up the courage to act. I yield back.


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