WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today gave his first ever speech on the floor of the United States Senate. Murphy called on his colleagues to put partisan politics aside and act now to pass the common sense gun reform legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.
A YouTube video of Murphy’s speech can be found here HERE.
Below is the text of Murphy’s speech:
Mr. President, it goes without saying that we all do our jobs here that we seek a seat in the United States Senate for a reason. We decided to run for this high office because of issues that we deeply care about, whether it be more affordable health care or better housing or lower taxes. In a job like this you're driven to find the issues that move you. And then sometimes there are issues that find you. When I was elected to the United States Senate last November, I never imagined that my maiden speech would be about guns or about gun violence. Just like I could never imagine that I’d be standing here in the wake of 20 little kids having died in Sandy Hook or six adults who protected them. But sometimes issues find you.
And so here I am. I'm so pleased to have the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip and so many of my colleagues on the floor with me here today. I want to start, though, with the unpleasant part. I think it's important for all of my colleagues to understand why we're having this debate this week and next week about gun violence, why for the first time in decades we were able to break the logjam to do something about the waves of violence that have plagued this nation. It's easy to avert your eyes from the horror of what happened in Newtown. It's easy to just box your ears and pretend that it didn't happen. But we can't ignore the reality because it's here. And on a disturbingly regular basis it's here. In Columbine, in Tucson, in Aurora, in Sand Hook, and the next town's name is just waiting to be added to the list if we do nothing. So here's what happened.
Sometime in the early morning hours of December 14, a very disturbed, reclusive young man named Adam Lanza went into his mother's room and shot her dead in her sleep. A few minutes later, maybe hours later, he got into her car and drove to Sandy Hook elementary school. About 9:35 he shot his way through locked doors with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that owned by his mother and he began a 10-minute rampage that left 20 children, all 6 and 7-year-olds and six adults who cared for them, dead. In ten minutes, Adam Lanza got off 154 rounds from a gun that could shoot up to six bullets a second. That high-powered gun assured that every single child that Adam Lanza shot, died. Lanza shot most kids multiple times. Noah Pozner was shot 11 times alone. The state’s veteran medical examiner who had been on the job for decade said he had never, ever seen anything like this. But several children did escape. Six kids were courageously hid in a classroom closet by their teacher, Victoria Soto, who shielded her kids from the bullet bullets and died that day. Five other kids ran out of the room when Lanza had trouble reloading. Five kids alive today because the shooter had to stop and switch ammunition magazines. And whether it's because he had trouble reloading again or because the police were coming into the building at 9:45am Adam Lanza turned one of the weapons on himself and the massacre ended but not before 26 people were dead. That's the reality. And the worst reality is this: if we don't do something, right now, it's going to happen again.
But really, Mr. President it's happening every day. And this country has just gotten so callously used to gun violence that it's just raindrops. It's just background noise. And that reality, the one in which we are losing 30 Americans a day to gun violence in which a chart that shows you how many have died since December 14 is almost unreadable because it's a cast of thousands, that reality is just as unacceptable as what happened in Sandy Hook that day. And so the question is are we going to do anything about it or are we going to sit on our hands like we have for 20 years and accept the status quo with respect to everyday gun violence and these increased incidences of mass shootings? If we're really serious about doing our jobs here we can't.
Now outside the beltway, this isn't a debate, this isn't a discussion. Eighty seven percent of Americans think we should have universal background checks. That everybody who buys a gun should prove they are not a criminal. Two-thirds of Americans think we should restrict these high-capacity ammunition clips. Seventy six percent of Americans believe that we should crack down on people who buy guns legally and go out and sell them in the community illegally.
The American public knows that we got to do something here and so why have we been stuck for so long? Well, first, is because Members of Congress have been listening to the wrong people. We should be listening to gun owners. They comprise a lower percentage of Americans than they did 30 years ago, about one third of Americans today own a gun, but they're a really important constituency. The problem is that the N.R.A. doesn't speak for gun owners like it used to. And yet we listen to that organization more than we should. Ten years ago the organization came here and argued for universal background checks in the wake of Columbine. Today they oppose those background checks even though 74 percent of N.R.A. members support universal background checks. I don't know the exact reason for that but maybe it is because increasingly the N.R.A. is financed not by its members, by everyday, commonsense gun owners but by the gun industry, tens of millions of dollars coming into the N.R.A. from the gun industry, a program that actually allows the N.R.A. to make a couple bucks off of every gun that’s sold in many gun stores across the country. We're not listening to gun owners. If we were, this wouldn't be a debate in this chamber.
But secondly, and maybe most importantly, we've really botched a conversation in this place about rights. And rights really are at the core of this debate. You know, I hear when I’m back home in Connecticut a lot of people talking about the right to bear arms as an unalienable right or a God-given right. And of course the constitution makes no such claim. The idea of an unalienable right, that's actually found in the Declaration of Independence. It is a phrase we know very well. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men are created equal and they're endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Amongst these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
But liberty isn't just about having any gun you want, any time you want it. Liberty has got to also be about the right to be free from indiscriminate violence. I mean, what kind of liberty did these kids have in that classroom in Newtown, being trapped by an assault weapon-wielding madman? And maybe more importantly what kind of liberty does a kid just up the street from here in Washington D.C., have when he fears for his life every time he wants to walk to the corner store or walk home from school? That's not the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that our founding father talked about. But even if we do accept that part of liberty is owning and using a gun, then we have to ask ourselves these questions: to what degree are our liberties really infringed upon? If we just suggest that there’s a handful of weapons too dangerous to own. To what extent are our freedoms trampled upon by just saying that you're going to need to reload your semi-automatic weapon after every ten bullets rather than after every 30 bullets? How gravely do we really risk tyranny when we just moderately restrain the size of a legally purchasable clip? If liberty is really our chief concern, than preserving and protecting the lives of innocent little kids has gone away pretty marginally constraining a weapons payload. If we can't agree on that what can we agree on? And if we accept this balance, then the policy prescriptions are pretty simple.
First guns should be available but they should be available to people of sound mind, with no criminal records. Now, we've believed that for a long time. Since the Brady Bill has passed, we've had about 2 million people who were stopped from buying guns because they were legally prohibited to do so. The Brady Bill has worked, the problem just is that 40 percent of weapons sold in this country don't go through background checks. I hope we'll have some good news by the end of the day on this front but that's a pretty easily acceptable premise. Criminals shouldn't own guns.
Second, a small number of guns are just too dangerous for retail sale. We’ve always accepted that premise as well, we’ve always drawn a line that says some weapons are reserved for military hands, others can be in the hands of private citizens. We know that assault weapons kill, and we know what happens when we banned them the last time. Gun homicides dropped by 37 percent. Nonlethal gun crimes dropped by an equal percentage.
Third, some ammunition too easy enables mass-slaughter. What legitimate reason is there for somebody to be able to walk into a movie theater or to a religious institution or to a school with 100-round drum of ammunition? Why do we need that? Hundred rounds, never mind 30 rounds. That doesn't sound too radical, does it?
So what does the gun lobby tell us about these ideas? What do they say is wrong with this approach that's grounded by data, that’s supported by people all across the country? Well specifically we hear two things over and over again. First, that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun. Second, that guns don't kill people; people kill people. Well to the first part of the argument, Newtown is part of the answer. Nancy Lanza owned a gun because she lived alone; she wanted guns to protect herself. She was alone a lot of the time. The guns that Nancy Lanza used weren’t used to fire upon intruders in her home. They killed her and 26 other boys and girls and parents. That’s not just an anecdote, that's a reflection of a statistical trend. If you have a gun in your house, it is four times more likely to be used in an accident than it is against an intruder. If you own a gun it’s much more likely to be used to kill you than it is to kill someone that’s trying to break into your home. And as to the second argument, as author Dennis Henigan once put it, guns don’t kill people. They just enable people to kill people. Guns are employed in only about 4 percent of felonies. But they’re used in 20 percent of all felonies involving bodily injury. Guns enable violence that is just vastly more violent. How do we know this? Well we know it by what happened in Sandy Hook that day, but maybe even more poignantly we know it by what happened that very same day on the entire other side of the world. On that same day, the 20 kids died in Newtown, in Henan, China; a madman walked into a school and attacked 23 schoolchildren with a deadly weapon -- same day. Twenty kids in Newtown, 23 kids in China. In Newtown, all 20 kids who were attacked died. In China, all 23 kids who were attacked lived. Why? Because in Henan, the assailant had a knife. Not a gun that could spray six bullets a second. So forgive me if I dismiss those like the president of the N.R.A. who choose to ignore the effect of the laws that we're debating this week and next week. When he said that all we're talking about here is feel-good legislation.
Well, he's right about one thing. It would feel really good if Daniel Barden got on the bus this morning to go to school. Daniel was an immensely compassionate little kid. He was always sitting next to the kids in school that sat alone. He never left a room without turning the lights off. When his family would go to the grocery store, they'd leave the store, they’d get halfway across the parking lot and Daniel wasn't there because he was still holding the door open for people who needed a way out. He loved smores.
It would feel really good if Ana Marquez-Greene could sing all those songs that she loved. She sang and performed everywhere she went. She came from a really musical family. Her mom said that she didn’t walk anywhere, that her preferred mode of transportation was dancing. She loved most to sing and dance in church. She loved it when her parent read to her from the Bible.
It would feel really good if Ben Wheeler got to ensure this beautiful spring day outside today. He was a piano virtuoso. He had already done a recital, and he was six years old. But what he really just loved was playing outside with his older brother Nate. They loved to play soccer together. The morning that he was killed, he told his mother that he wanted to be a paleontologist when he grew up. He said, "That’s what Nate’s going to be. I want to do everything that Nate does."
So that's our task. Beat back all the naysayers who say that we can’t do this. That we won’t change the way things are. I believe we can. I believe that we’re good enough to drown out the voices of the status quo, and the lobbyists and the political consultants. I think that in the next couple weeks we’re good enough to change the way things are.
And finally I want to tell you one last story to explain why I know that we’re good enough. I think that when we see people in need, when we see children stripped of their dignity, we're just too compassionate a people to close our eyes. I know that sometimes we wonder what we really are inside. Are we truly good or is goodness a learned behavior? And it may sound strange but after December 14, I just know the former to be true. Because after and during the shooting as if to swallow up those ten minutes of evil, millions of acts of infinite kindness just rained down on Newtown, from the teachers who protected those kids to the firefighters who didn't leave that firehouse for days afterwards to the just millions of acts of humanity and gifts and phone calls that came in from the rest of the world.
And because of Anne Marie Murphy. Anne Marie was a special education teacher, charged with the care of Dylan Hockley, this little boy. A wonderful gentle little six year old boy. He was living with autism but he was doing great at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Anne Marie loved Dylan and Dylan loved Anne Marie back. There was a picture on his refrigerator of Ann Marie and almost every day he would point to Anne Marie with pride to his parents. Nicole, his mom whose here this week, said at Dylan’s funeral that when she realized that Dylan wasn't going to show up at the firehouse that day with all the other kids who were returning from the school, she hoped she’d see Mrs. Murphy, but she knew she wouldn't. She knew that Anne Marie wouldn't leave Dylan’s side if he was in danger. And she didn't. When the bullets started flying, she brought Dylan into her arms, she held him tight inside that classroom, and that’s just how the two of them were found.
On Monday, Nicole flew down here to Washington with myself and President Obama to try to make the case that things need to change for Dylan, for Anne Marie, and for the thousands of other people before and after who have been killed by guns. And as Nicole and the other parents walked up the steps of Air Force One, one mom raised a piece of paper above her head with a note that she had scribbled on it that day. And the cameras caught the moment. The note just said simply, "Love wins."
I believe today more than I ever have before that if we are truly doing our job here in this chamber, then loves has to win every single time.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.