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Public Statements

Protecting our Children from Gun Violence

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LEVIN. Madam President, no family should be forced to endure the loss of a child. In his memoir, President Dwight Eisenhower wrote that the loss of his 3-year-old son in early 1921 was ``the greatest disappointment and disaster in my life, the one that I have never been able to forget completely.'' That is why one of the fundamental expectations that Americans have of their government is also one of the most simple: to protect America's children; to ensure that our communities, our streets, and our families are safe.

But sadly, Congress has done little to combat the gun violence that continues to devastate American children and families. Many have characterized horrific shootings affecting children in our Nation, such as the one which occurred in Newtown, CT, as somehow separate from mainstream American society. But recent studies have shown that such incidents cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Instead, as a recent Yale University study has established, they are part of a wider, disturbing trend of gun violence wounding and killing American children. This study found that every day in the United States, around 20 children sustain firearm injuries serious enough to require hospitalization. In 6 percent of those cases, the wounds prove to be fatal. Three quarters of child hospitalizations examined by the study were the result of unintentional or accidental injuries, often cases of children playing with an unsecured firearm.

The study's rigorous clinical framework, combined with the reality that it is discussing children, makes for jarring reading. The researchers found, for example, that the most common firearm-inflicted injuries on children are open wounds, fractures, and internal injuries to the thorax, abdomen, or pelvis. Injuries to the nerves or spinal cord are also frequent. Traumatic brain injury resulting from gun violence is most often found in children younger than 5. These are not statistics of soldiers on a battlefield who volunteered to face danger. These are innocent children, in our communities, right here at home.

This cycle of violence touches families around our Nation. Like in Detroit, where a recent Detroit News investigation showed that nearly 500 Detroit children have died in homicides since 2000, mostly as the result of gun violence. That investigation cited, as an example, the story of 12-year-old Kenis Green Jr. Last August, he was shot and killed on his front porch during his uncle's birthday party. In Texas, last October a 5-year-old boy shot himself with a .40 caliber pistol that his babysitter left unattended when she went to take a nap. In South Carolina, last December a 15-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed a 12-year-old while loading a magazine into a firearm.

If almost anything in the world was responsible for sending 20 American children to the hospital every day, or was frequently involved in teenage suicides, or was inflicting traumatic brain injuries on toddlers, Congress would spring into action to address what can only be described as a public health crisis. We would enact comprehensive safety standards to stop the bloodshed. But when firearms are responsible for these horrific effects, inexplicably, we do nothing.

I urge my colleagues to recognize this crisis and to act to protect our children from gun violence. I urge my colleagues to take up and pass gun safety measures already pending in this Congress to keep firearms out of the wrong hands and to make our society safer. We owe our children nothing less.

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