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Public Statements

The Shooting Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Now it's Newtown, 20 innocents and their six teachers. More tears, more burials, but will we heed its meaning? Will we break the gun lobby spell that has held us in thrall to a psychosis that has left us numb and paralyzed with each passing tragedy? I think so.

First step in any recovery program: admit the problem. We have too many weapons with too much ammunition that is unregulated, unchecked, and unjustified. We need to restore rigorous background checks to keep dangerous weapons away from criminals and the mentally ill. We need to close the gun show loophole. We need to facilitate database sharing among law enforcement agencies--Federal, State, and local.

Next step: limit access to weapons of mass killing. No hunter needs an Uzi; no citizen needs an assault-style weapon for self-defense. No other civilized society has allowed the argument that any restriction of any kind is a direct assault on our personal liberty, except us.

Next: require registration and stiff penalties for failure to secure dangerous weapons in the home or workplace while banning their presence in a select number of public places such as churches, police stations, mental health facilities, recreation and youth centers, government buildings, and--oh, yes--schools.

The gun lobby has bullied and intimidated us for too long. Reasonable gun control measures like those just listed provide for public safety; they don't threaten it. The lobby loves to fall back on trite mantras that unfortunately have proved all too effective in silencing any meaningful public debate heretofore: ``Guns don't kill; people do.'' "Any restriction real or imagined contravenes my Second Amendment rights to bear arms.''

Oh, really?

Even Justice Scalia, in writing his unprecedented and deeply flawed Heller opinion, acknowledged that it did not preclude reasonable gun control measures. Even Scalia has had to admit in his originalist interpretation of the Second Amendment he cannot answer whether the Constitution envisioned a universal right to possess rocket launchers, RPGs, stinger missiles, or military assault weapons in our homes. That is the logical fallacy and folly of the argument of unrestricted rights to bear arms without limit. Its proponents allow for no check on this right in the Constitution. Even the First Amendment has limitations. So does this one.

We've been lulled into a passivity and fatalism with the logical fallacies and sometimes thuggish tactics of the gun lobby and its extreme right-wing allies at a terrible cost. Each year, guns kill almost 10 times the number of Americans lost on that tragic day in 9/11; and each year, we face another massacre: Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and now Newtown.

Time for our outrage to return us to action and reshape this gun culture. It is in our hands.

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