tv U.S. Senate Sens. Bennet Feinstein on Gun Bill CSPAN June 24, 2022 3:52am-4:17am EDT
to kill others. he could have been prosecuted. so i fear even with this law, if we don't pay attention to the laws we already have, if we don't persist in -- and persevere in prosecuting these kids that show this danger -- they are committing crimes. why don't we prosecute them? why don't we use the laws on the book? but i would say there is a big risk today to encouraging across the country jurisprudence where you don't have legal representation, where the adjudication is based on only one side and you get your day in court and everybody's get petrified -- everybody's petrified of reversing the decision. i want to be careful because i would not see a day where we reverse justice in our system such that people are guilty until proven innocent. the bedrock of american
jurisprudence is innocent until proven guilty, until we can make mr. bennet: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, this morning the supreme court weakened gun safety laws in america for the first time in over a decade. it gutted a century-old law to make sure that people carrying concealed weapons actually needed them, and the the court is taking us backward at a time when the american people are demanding that we do more, not less, to protect our communities. the shooting at columbine high school happened the year before my oldest daughter was born. she's now 22 years old, and we've raised three daughters. and their entire generation has
grown up in the shadow of gun violence. since col columbine, my state has endured one tragedy after another. in 2012, a gunman killed 12 people at a movie theater in aurora. in 2019, a shooter injured eight students at stem high school in highland's ranch. last march, a shooter killed ten people at the king supers grocery store in boulder. that was almost a year to the day, really, to the shootings in buffalo that took another ten lives of people who had just gone to shop for their families. two months after that grocery store shooting in colorado a gunman killed six people at a birthday party in colorado springs.
you know, mr. president, i remember back -- it's hard, over time you lose track of things, but i remember back in 2017, after a gunman in las vegas killed 58 americans, shooting across the street from a hotel room. i came to work the following monday, mr. president, and i realized about three-quarters of the way through the day that nobody had talked to me about the shooting. and i don't know whether it was the shooting before that or two or three or four before that when we became so desensitized that 58 people could be killed in las vegas and it wasn't even mentioned the following monday. we cannot allow this to become
normal in this country. the people of colorado refuse for this to become normal in this country, and it's not just mass shootings. it's the daily shootings that stalks our communities like the west side of chicago, where i've spent time with my friend arne duncan, who after being the secretary of education has gone back to his hometown to try to keep young men from killing one another. they can't afford for us to continue to just move on and forget that it ever happened. communities, once they've been salve amged by something -- savaged by something like the aurora movie theater shooting or the columbine shooting, they never move on. and i can tell you, the pages
here are a little bit younger than my daughters are, but i can tell you that there is a whole generation of americans that's grown up in this country savaged by gun violence and the prospect that it could happen to them when they go to school the next day, or the next week. you can see it. you can see kids sitting on the couch, cringing when they're watching the television reports, wondering whether that's going to be me or that's going to be -- whether that's going to be them or their classmates. they have carried a burden that no generation of americans has ever had to carry. no generation of humans living in the industrialized world has had to carry this particular burden.
today our kids are growing up with a reasonable fear that they could get shot in their school, or in their temple, or in their church. i didn't grow up in a country with more gun-related deaths than virtually any country in the industrialized world. that wasn't the country i grew up in. i grew up in a country where the second amendment -- with the second amendment, but not a country with more shootings than anyplace else in in the industrialized world. our attitude about this has changed. it's different from what our parents and grandparents believed. no matter what party they were in. i heard somebody after a shooting on the radio, some well-known talk show host, say that this was just the price of freedom. that being victimized in a mass shooting or being worried that
your family member could be killed in a mass shooting was just the price of freedom. that's not what freedom meant to america when i was growing up. partly what freedom means is being free from fear that you're going to get gunned down. that's a freedom, and we've denied that freedom to the next generation of americans. and what a shame that somebody would say something like that after a mass shooting. what a limited view of what freedom is. what a surrender that represents to our children. and to the victims of these crimes.
mr. president, in 2020 the leading cause of death for kids in america was guns. guns. not car accidents, not drugs, but guns. there was a study that looked at how many kids age 4 or younger had been killed by guns across 29 industrialized countries. this is kids 4 or younger. in 29 industrialized countries. the united states accounted for 97% of deaths. this country accounted for 97% of deaths of kids that were 4 years and under. what a disgrace! what an indictment!
entire rest of the world, industrialized world, accounted for 3%. we accounted for 97%. we have nearly 200 times the rate of violent gun deaths as japan or south korea, and nearly 100 times what they experience in the ukraine -- in the united kingdom. i can tell you, speaking as a father, it's not because we love our children any less. or because we're uniquely violent or that somehow we've got a mental health problem that other countries don't have, that we're mentally more unwell, which i hear some people say. it's because we have a united states senate that year after year after year has been
paralyzed by the national rifle association. by the n.r.a. a senate that's allowed our kids to get shot in schools, movie theaters, grocery stores and concerts, and offered nothing but thoughts and prayers. a neat that until now has -- a senate that until now has failed to respond to the overwhelming demand of the american people to protect our communities. that's what i hear when i go home. i live in a western state. as you'll hear, we've been able to fact meaningful gun reforms in my state. we can make progress in the western state like colorado, where people are demanding it, democrats, independents, and republicans, and most important of all our children, are demanding it, we can do it here. i've said it over and over and over again on this floor, after we've had mass shooting after mass shooting across our
country. and finally, for the first time in a decade, we have the chance to make progress. and i want to thank my colleagues. i really do. i don't mean that in the usual way that people come out here and say, you know, i thank this person. i want to thank my colleagues. chris murphy and john cornyn, for leading this really important bipartisan effort. and i strongly support what they've put forward, which would strengthen backgrounds ground checks for young people buying firearms, so we're checking their mental health and juvenile records. helping states strengthen red flag laws, which would help keep guns out of the hands of people who are a threat to themselves or others. we've passed a bill like that already in colorado. make a historic investment in mental health and school security. i said a minute ago that
sometimes you just hear people talk about how we have mental health, and i pointed out that we probably have about the same mental health as other countries in the world have. but that doesn't mean it's not an issue, and it is an issue. we're having an pandemic of mental health on the -- an epidemic of mental health on the back end of this pandemic, especially among adolescents, in this country and in the state of colorado. there's $15 billion in this bill for mental health, and i'm proud that that is in there. that is a historic investment, and it's both sides making it. we're going to close the boyfriend loophole, which allows abuse becausive partners to buy a gun, and we're going to crack down on straw purchases where people illegally buy guns on behalf of someone else. that's a big problem that we're going to address in this bill. frankly, i don't know how anybody on this floor could object to any of those ideas. i don't know how anyone could go
home and say they opposed investing in mental health or making sure they're not letting a troubled 18-year-old have access to an ar-15 or some other weapon. but on that point, this can't be the end of our work, mr. president. there's more for us to do. we should raise the age for buying a semiautomatic weapon from 18 to 21. we should pass universal background checks. in colorado, after columbine, we passed universal background checks. i said it over and over again on this floor. and every year somewhere around 3% of the people that try to buy a gun can't buy a gun in colorado. and you know why they can't buy a gun? because they're a convicted felon, because they're murderers, because they're domestic abusers. in the ten years that i've been, 12 years that i've been coming down here talking about
this, i've challenged people. i've said come tell me why colorado is not safer with that law in place, and there's nobody that ever comes here and says here's why you're not safer because obviously we are safer and the country would be safer and colorado would be safer if we passed background checks at the national level. we should close the gun show loophole. we should limit the size of magazines, which we also have done in my western state of colorado. we should ban bump stocks. people in colorado and across the country overwhelmingly support these steps. but in the meantime, mr. president, let's pass this bipartisan proposal. a few weekends ago i was actually -- it was actually over the memorial day weekend, i had high school kids not in the same place and not just one, literally coming up to me
in tears out of desperation that we were not responding to what had happened in texas and we hadn't done anything in this country about guns. i think we need to show them and the young people that are here today, the young people that are living all over america that we aren't so broken that we can't respond to one more massacre of kids at a school. we need to show them, mr. president, when we have this opportunity to demonstrate that we're not going to fail again. and that we can succeed in passing this bipartisan bill and that after all these years we can meet the american people's reasonable expectation to begin
to protect our communities against gun violence that happens in the united states of america and only in the united states of america. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from california is recognized. mrs. feinstein: i ask to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. feinstein: mr. president, our country is still mourning the tragic shootings in buffalo and uvalde in which a total of 31 innocent people were gunned down by teenagers using weapons of war. while these terrible events get our attention and have in this case galvanized the senate to act, they are only two of the 279 shootings that have taken place this year. so it is good that the senate is
now considering legislation to address the epidemic of gun violence. the bipartisan safer communities act which we're now considering is a good, albeit modest, bill. i'm particularly pleased to see two issues i prioritized are addressed in this bill. the first is grants to state red flag laws, like the law in my home state of california, which has proven effective at removing guns from people who have been found by a court to possess a threat and a provision closing the boyfriend loophole which has let too many domestic abusers continue to possess firearms. however, while this bill is a step in the right direction, it's far from the bold action that we need to address mass shootings that occur on a daily basis. it remains too easy for the
private citizens to obtain weapons of war in this country. and sadly, this bill does very little to address that tragic reality. almost 30 years ago, in 1993, i stood on this floor and offered the amendment to ban the sale and possession of assault weapons. that goal was simple. limit access to weapons of war that have no place on our streets. and guess what? it worked. in the ten years the assault weapons ban was law, gun massacres dropped 37%. after the ban lapsed in 2004, gun massacres rose by 183%. that's a big difference. back then a different shooting
was on the mind of americans. the one-on-one california shooting in my hometown of san francisco where a disturbed man entered a law firm and killed eight people. for many, this tragedy was a wake-up call that required action, and we did act. now, 30 years later, teenagers are able to purchase ar-15's, multiple high-quality magazines, and shoot up a grocery store or elementary school. and we've left mourning the deaths of innocent people and asking what is the solution. i applaud the sponsors of the legislation now before the senate, but i have to ask what will it take for us to hear the wake-up call and pass stronger
gun legislation. our nation, our children are under constant attack. nowhere is safe. there are mass shootings at schools, at churches, at synagogues, newspaper offices, stores, movie theaters, on and on. it's simply too easy to get a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible. today's legislation will help, but there's so much more we could and should be doing. our gun laws are lax, and they make it too simple for anyone, even though those we know are prone to violence, to obtain a weapon. this is especially true of teenagers. even though they can't buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes,
they can buy an ar-15 assault rifle, and thousands of rounds of ammunition once they turn 18 years old. and the results are heartbreaking. in uvalde, 18 children and 2 teachers were massacred last month because an 18-year-old was able to buy an assault weapon. just ten days earlier in buffalo, ten people were shot to death in a grocery store because an 18-year-old was able to buy an assault weapon. the common denominator in so many mass shootings today are assault weapons. i understand the senators who negotiated the bill couldn't reach agreement on this issue. consequently the bill fails to prevent teenagers, teenagers
from buying assault weapons. under current law, a federal firearms licensee may not sell or deliver a handgun to a buyer younger than 21. however, this commonsense protection does not apply to purchases of assault weapons. this disparity actually cost lives. it's simple logic. if you can't buy a beer, you shouldn't be able to buy an assault weapon. if you can't buy a handgun, you shouldn't be able to buy an ar-15. that's why i introduced, along with 13 of my colleagues, the age 21 act. i have also filed it as an amendment on the bill before us. the bill would raise the minimum wage age to purchase assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition from 18 to 21.
so before you have a powerful weapon, before you buy big bullets, you have to at least be 21 years old. i don't think that's too much to ask. this commonsense reform has public support among both democrats and republicans. a recent "politico" poll showed that 88% of democrats and 68% of republicans support requiring people to be 21 or older to purchase a firearm. i believe that failing now to act and address the ease with which teenagers can buy assault weapons is really a grave mistake. and make no mistake about it, it will cost lives. so now is the time to act. i urge my colleagues to support
the age 21 act and pass it before the next massacre. i hope these words are heard. i hope people understand. and i hope there are no more killing of young people this way. so i thank the presiding officer, and law-abiding gun ow. many of my own most cherished memories involve the responsible use of a firearm -- to feed my family and to forge memories with my sons and my closest friends. but those same sons grew up doing active shooter drills in their classrooms, something that would have been absolutely unimaginable when i was their age. and just this spring, my son's
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