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Public Statements

Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I rise with a heavy heart at the senseless tragedy in Newtown, CT, that took place this Friday. We are all shaken from that day, and we ask ourselves: Why? How could this happen in America? We grope for answers and I hope we will find them.

Today I join, first with every American, in expressing our deep and abiding grief as a Nation and our deepest, most heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. I am the father of two. As a father of two, this strikes painfully close to my heart, and painfully close to the heart of every parent. There is no greater sorrow, no deeper pain than the enormous grief these families are suffering for those 20 innocent children, 6 teachers, and school employees and their families; and no parent--no parent--should ever have to bear the unspeakable pain of losing a child, especially to this type of tragedy.

All too often I have come to this floor having to say those same words--one tragedy after another, time and time again, having to stand here and say that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of another tragedy involving gun violence, semiautomatic weapons, high-capacity clips, and the families of those victims who have lost loved ones to senseless, sick gun violence.

But this time we are talking about children--elementary schoolchildren--the youngest, most innocent among us taken away. Enough is enough.

Matthew 18 says:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying ``Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'' And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ``Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like the children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven ..... ''

The children have entered the kingdom of heaven today. I hope we honor them and their memory in what we do now to end the violence. Let Newton finally be the turning point when we are all willing to come together and do what is right. As we pray for the victims, let us commit ourselves as a Nation to a long overdue debate about violence and guns and how we deal with those who suffer mental illnesses in our society, and let us finally pass commonsense gun laws. No more politics; no more excuses. We cannot allow this sort of senseless violence to continue. We need a national debate about the role of firearms in our society, we need to address mental health issues, and we need to act immediately.

This shooter had hundreds of rounds of ammunition--reportedly enough to kill everyone in the school--and had it not been for the brave first responders, there could have been even more tragic killings on Friday. These high-capacity clips must be outlawed. I don't believe there is any reason why a law-abiding citizen would need the capability to shoot multiple rounds like a street sweeper.

Words cannot express my sadness that another shooter used a weapon that has no legitimate purpose, from my perspective, in a civilized society, using high-capacity 30-round clips that defy any reasonable use. And there are even greater capacity clips than this.

I don't understand why the same type of weapon used by the DC sniper is still readily available, and I don't understand how we can see the same high-capacity clips used over and over by maniacal murderers during these strategies and not act.

After Tucson, Aurora, and now Newtown, we need to finally do something about these dangerous clips. We need to make sure nobody with a criminal record or mental illness can purchase a firearm, and that means we need a comprehensive, mandatory background check system. It is no use that my State of New Jersey has some of the toughest laws but then over a third of the guns that come into our State and commit an act are from outside our State.

I have cosponsored legislation to outlaw high-capacity clips, improve our background checks, and I have supported and helped pass the original assault weapons ban, and I will support an assault weapons ban this next year as I have in the past.

This doesn't need to be a political debate. This is about keeping little children safe in their first-grade classroom. I am for reasonable use of guns, but first and foremost I am for protecting our children, our teachers, our families. That is our No. 1 responsibility. If we can't do that, shame on us.

Mr. President, with that, I yield the floor.


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