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The American People or the NRA?

October 8, 2015 – Washington DC

 

Mr. President, for twenty years one of the biggest billboards in America was next to Fenway Park, facing the Massachusetts Turnpike. It had a giant number counter on it, and when I was running for the Senate in 2012, I would drive past a billboard sometimes three or four times a day. And each time, I would look up at the counter to see how it changed since the last trip. Up two, up six, up 12. The billboard was from Stop Handgun Violence, and it showed the number of children killed by guns in the United States.

When the tragedy happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School, my first thought was the twenty little children, who would be added to the count on that billboard. I thought about how we, the grown-ups, had failed to keep safe the thousands of children counted there. Mass shootings, everyday shootings, drive-by shootings, random shootings, sometimes with big headlines and mostly with no headlines at all. The facts are simple, 88 Americans die every day from gun violence. Seven of those people are children or teens.

That’s seven a day, every day. Young bodies piling up by the thousands, year after year. What has happened to us? If seven children were dying every day from some mysterious virus, our country would pull out all the stops to figure out what had gone wrong and to fix it. Well gun violence is an epidemic. An epidemic that kills children. Kills them in schools, on playgrounds, and in our neighborhoods.

But day after day, month after month, tragedy after tragedy, the United States Congress has done nothing. Nothing. Republicans in the senate have blocked even the smallest steps to protect our communities and keep our children safe. This must stop now. Today senate democrats are calling on republicans to join us in supporting three measures to reduce gun violence. First in the gun show loophole, everyone gets a background check. Second, end straw purchases. The one who gets checked has to be the true owner. And third, close holes in the background check database, and stop domestic abusers from purchasing guns, period.

Look, let’s be frank. These three steps won’t be enough to stop all handgun violence in our communities, but these are meaningful steps in the right direction. Steps that huge majorities of Americans support. Steps that are calm and sensible. And these three steps are a test, a test for every single member of Congress. These three steps put the question to everyone in Congress. Who do you work for? Do you represent the people who have lost children, or sisters, or cousins to gun violence? Who have stood at graveside and sworn that we will make change. Do you represent the people who don’t want their loved ones to be the next victims? Do you represent the people who want some sensible rules about gun safety? Or do you represent the NRA?

It is time to make a choice, right here in Congress. The American people or the NRA? Thank you Mr. President, I yield.