U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took to the Senate floor today to demand that Senate Republicans take action on the gun violence crisis in the United States. Although the House has passed three commonsense gun control bills earlier this year, and the House Judiciary Committee passed three additional bills out of committee last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to act. Gillibrand joined her Democratic colleagues on the floor today to call for action in the Senate and push to bring commonsense gun control legislation to a vote.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:
Madam President, I rise to join my colleagues, Senator Heinrich, and the others who have come before, on calling on Senator McConnell to act now to address the gun crisis in our country.
Every day that the Senate Republican leaders refuse to act, they are making a choice to be complicit as more lives continue to be lost.
People across my state and the country want to see action, and they’re tired of waiting for it.
I’ve met with countless families across New York who have lost their children, spouses, friends, community members, neighbors, to gun violence.
I’ve met people who have survived mass shootings and people who live every single day with the threat of gun violence in their neighborhoods.
I’ve heard their stories and seen how their lives have been torn apart by gun violence.
And today I want to tell some of those stories to you.
Robert Gaafar, one of my constituents from Long Island and a father of young children, was at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas for work.
He heard loud popping noises and soon realized they weren’t coming from the performance on stage, but from a gun.
As the shooter fired round after round, Robert hid behind a metal vending machine for protection. The bullets being fired around him were so powerful he could actually feel the shockwaves.
He said he would never forget the silence of 20,000 people at a concert, or the horrific screams of grown men and women he could hear as the gunman reloaded.
He was lucky. He survived. But 58 people did not, and many more were injured.
Another New Yorker, Trenelle Gabay, had to make the unthinkable decision to take her husband off life support after he was shot in the crossfire of two rival gangs at a community festival in Brooklyn.
He was just an innocent bystander, and ironically, he was an attorney for the state who helped draft the New York SAFE Act, which set a precedent for one of the strongest gun laws in the country.
But he was not immune from gun violence himself.
As Trenelle told it, her husband’s life and bright light were extinguished by guns.
At the trial, Trenelle heard a criminal testify about how easy it was for him to purchase a gun and traffic it from Georgia to New York.
It should not be this easy for criminals to get access to dangerous weapons. It should not be so easy for lives to be taken so senselessly.
One mother I met in New York, Jackie Rowe-Adams, lost not one, but two sons to gun violence.
One of her sons was shot when he was seventeen years old, outside a bodega in Harlem. The reason? Two men with a gun believed that her son was staring at them. So they killed him.
Ms. Rowe-Adams lost her second son to gun violence during a robbery outside of his apartment.
The boy who shot him was only thirteen years old. He should never have had access to a gun.
Imagine the horror of being a mother and losing two of your sons to gun violence.
And then there’s another one of my constituents, Edwin Vargas.
His sixteen-year-old son Luis was killed on Halloween, when an unknown gunman decided to fire his weapon into the crowd in a neighborhood in the Bronx.
The gunman was irritated by a group of teenagers who were throwing eggs in his neighborhood, so he began to randomly shoot into the crowd.
The gunman hit three innocent bystanders, including Luis.
Luis was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These are the tragic stories – heart-wrenching stories that New Yorkers have shared with me, but they are no means unique.
In every state around the country, there are too many stories just like these.
The reality is that mass shootings can and have happened in every corner of this country, in all types of places.
Gun violence has become the new normal in America.
It certainly has happened in Arizona, Madam President.
But we do not have to live in a country where mass shootings occur in our schools, our houses of worship, our movie theaters, our playgrounds, our stores, our community gatherings, and festivals, and concerts, and nightclubs, and at Congress on your Corners.
Madam President, I am speaking to you and to every other Republican in this chamber.
Because we all have a responsibility to do the right thing and stand up to the NRA and stand up to the greed and corruption that is in this country today that makes every decision about whether we have a vote on commonsense gun reforms.
I can poll your state for you – I can ask every NRA member in America, “Do you support universal background checks? Banning large magazines – military style weapons?”
Leave them in the hands of military members, not someone who walks into a store and buys them because he wants to shoot large numbers of people in minutes and seconds.
That’s what’s happening in America today.
And I’d like you to look up! Because I have to say this is something all of us should be caring about.
Especially from Arizona, where my dear friend Gabby Giffords was shot for doing her job.
Where a young girl showed up at a Congress on her Corner to meet her Congresswoman and died.
It’s not okay.
The time for turning a blind eye is over.
I yield the floor.