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Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MURPHY. I come down to the floor for the second time today and maybe the fifth time over the last 2 days to talk again about the real reason we are here on the floor of the Senate this week and next week--to talk about the scourge of gun violence across the country and its victims.

We have had a good week this week on the floor of the Senate--a breakthrough on the matter of background checks, an agreement that we hope can forge the basis of a bill next week, an agreement that maybe doesn't move us as far as some of us would like in terms of making sure criminals in this country don't have guns but that moves us very far down the line toward a day when no criminals can go onto the streets of this country with guns, and then a very positive vote today in which Democrats and Republicans joined to break a threatened filibuster.

But these are the kids we are really here to talk about, and I wanted to come down before the week was over to talk about a few more victims just to make sure we are really clear about whom and what we are talking about.

Let me tell you about Chase Kowalski, one of the 7-year-olds killed by the gunman's bullets in Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was an amazing little kid. He was an athlete. Much like Jack Pinto, whom I talked about yesterday, Chase was a young jock. He was 6 years old when he actually completed and won a kids triathlon in Mansfield, CT. He was so inspired from watching the Olympics last summer, seeing his heroes Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte do so well, that he went out and decided to learn how to swim and do it competitively. So with a little bit of help, he became a swimmer as well. His parents and surviving two older sisters, with a lot of his friends and family, ran together in honor of Chase's love for sports in a Sandy Hook 5K run that attracted thousands of people to the streets of Hartford.

Chase Kowalski could have done a lot of things. He clearly had this drive and initiative you don't find in a lot of kids who are only 7 years old. We will never really know who Chase was going to grow up to be, but he was a pretty remarkable young boy.

Jesse Lewis is here on this poster. His father, Neil Heslin, is here this week arguing and pleading for us to do something.

Jesse was a pretty amazing kid in his own right. He was 6 years old. The evening before the tragedy, he and his father had been out shopping for Christmas presents for his friends and family. One of the gifts they were going out to get was for his teacher Vicki Soto, who was killed the next morning along with him. Jesse was spending his own money on all these presents. He had $37 to spend, which he had earned by helping his father with a variety of odd jobs.

That was Jesse. He wanted to do nice things for people, but he wanted to earn the right to do it, so it wasn't the first time he had gone out and basically earned the money at 6 years old in order to buy things. But he was still a kid. He grew up on a farm, so he loved horses and dogs and chicks, and he liked to go out and fish and play soccer. His dad was always outside working on projects, and he always wanted to be with his dad Neil.

He was a pretty amazing kid with a lot of initiative and drive for a 6-year-old. We will never really know who he was going to grow up to be either.

As I have talked about on this floor over the last 2 days, although so much of the attention is on those 20 kids, the reality is that 3,300 people have died since Newtown. That is where our focus should be as well, on people such as Brian Herrera, 16 years old, a straight-A student at Miami Jackson Senior High School. Three days before Christmas of last year, only about a week after the Newtown shootings, Brian was riding his bike to his best friend's house. He was doing exactly what he should have done--going to a friend's house to work on a school project--and he was gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of the pavement. He was still carrying his red backpack--a story we heard earlier today about someone else. This was a totally random shooting. I am not sure if this has been solved at this point, but at the time the police had absolutely no idea why this happened. But there are so many guns out on the streets today--many of them illegal guns because we don't have a gun trafficking law and we don't have a good background checks law--that these things happen.

Jeremy Lee Khaoone, 25 years old, was shot in California about 1 month ago. He was one of five brothers. His father had just lost his wife. He was a native of Stockton, CA, an ironworker. He was always cheerful and smiling. Jeremy was killed by gun violence, and he left behind a 3-year-old son in February of this year.

Every single day 30 people in this country die from gun violence. You can't even see the differentiation between the little figurines on this chart because it happens so often. So I have been coming down to the floor not to hold time but just to remind my colleagues of whom we are really talking and the fact that what we are proposing to do next week really will make a difference.

If we want to get all these illegal guns off the street, then we can't just accept the status quo. We have to do something about it. It is ridiculous that we don't have a Federal law that bans gun trafficking. It is not OK that perhaps 4 out of every 10 guns in this country are sold without background checks. A person shouldn't be able to walk into a school or a movie theater or a church with a 100-round drum of ammunition. There is no reason for it.

We are not going to wipe gun violence off the face of this Earth, but we have to remember these victims. We have to remember the Jeremies, we have to remember the Jesses, we have to remember the Brians and the Charlottes and the Madeleines and all of these people who have lost their lives. We can't bring them back, but we can certainly make sure that 3 or 4 months from now this chart is a little bit smaller. We have the ability to do that.

I will be back next week with other stories of victims--from Connecticut, to Colorado, to Tucson, to New York City, to Chicago, to Miami--so that as we move into maybe the most critical week on the floor of this body with respect to the debate on gun violence in decades, we are really sure about whom we are talking about and the difference we can make.

I yield the floor.


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