Reid: The Time For Smarter Background Checks Is Now

“I’ve started to reach out to senators and talking about what can be done to advance the cause of background checks.”

“Once again a young man was able to take guns and end the lives of innocent people.”

“Ninety percent of gun owners believe there should be background checks, including 86% of Republicans. But even in the face of support, Republicans refuse to take steps in implementing background checks that could save the lives of countless Americans.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today addressing the tragic mass shooting at Umpqua Community College and the reality of gun violence in the United States . Below are his remarks:

Just a few days ago, last Thursday, our great nation witnessed another tragedy. Preparing these remarks, we were trying to come up with what we should say. Tragedy? Tragedy doesn’t quite convey how horrible that mass killing was in Oregon. Once again a young man was able to take an arsenal of guns and end the lives of innocent people. Nine men and women woke up Thursday morning, all to attend Umpqua Community College, but they were assaulted and killed in a demented, sadistic killing ritual.

Lucero Alcaraz (19), Treven Taylor Anspach (20),  Rebecka Ann Carnes (18), Quinn Glen Cooper (18), Kim Saltmarsh Dietz (59), Lucas Eibel (18), Jason Dale Johnson (34), Lawrence Levine (67), Serena Dawn Moore (44). All victims of a deranged gunman’s murderous attack.

Our hearts are broken for the families and loved ones, the victims, and for this whole community of Roseburg. But a broken heart really isn’t enough, is it? This senseless act of gun violence is not an isolated tragedy. Communities all around our nation are shattered daily by these cruel and undeserved acts of gun violence. The reality of gun violence in the United States is not only shocking. It’s pathetic.

Every day, gun violence claims the lives of 30 Americans. Tomorrow at this time, 4:15, 24 hours from now, about 30 more Americans will be killed by guns. 11,000 Americans are murdered with guns each year. This year alone,  we’ve had 200 mass shootings. 200. Anywhere else in the world, these alarming facts would prompt action. Sadly, here in the United States we’ve become so desensitized to the lives that are taken every day by guns that our response is to do nothing.

Each time gun violence claims the life of an American, the nation follows the same routine. Here’s what it is. The same thing happens. We have shock and sorrow. We start asking questions. Who did that? Who was the killer? We usually have to wait a few hours to find out who it was. Why did he do this? Why did he carry out this horrible act? Then we wonder, when the time allows it, what could we as a nation have done to prevent this terrible thing from happening? But we don’t do anything. We don’t act.

It’s within our power to reduce gun violence in the nation and prevent mass shootings; not all of them, but some of them. A few of them. We know these tragic events almost always occur in instances where somebody is unstable and they are terribly violent and they are able to get a gun easily and use it to carry out these terrible attacks. We know this, yet we fail to pass and approve federal laws placing distance between mentally ill, violent people and guns. Instead of taking action, lawmakers all around this country pander to the extreme right-wing gun lobby and leave Americans vulnerable to these attacks.

This year alone, there have been more than 200 mass shootings – this year. The United States is a global leader in mass shootings. This great nation. Can’t we raise standards in this country for gun purchases? The answer, of course, is yes. And we can do it by not infringing on rights to restrict access to firearms, but to keep Americans safe.

Let’s not mince words about who would stop us from passing background checks. Republicans that wage a right-wing ideological crusade fashioned by the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America. These two organizations are in a scramble to see who can raise the most money. That’s what it’s all about. One of them does something, the other goes “we’ll do better than that,” and they are out with each with “can you send us some money?” This right-wing ideological crusade fashioned by the N.R.A. and Gun Owners of America, is to prevent background checks that would keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill.

The National Rifle Association is a far cry from the sportsmen’s association it once was. The N.R.A. once called mandatory background checks “reasonable.” That’s what they said. Now, it uses its energy and its members to fight against even the most sensible reforms. In opposition to this deadly agenda, Democrats have long sought to strengthen background checks. But instead of joining Democrats in finding ways to protect American lives, Republicans have pledged their loyalty to what was once a moderate sportsman’s organization. Times have changed. Now, the N.R.A. and its leadership are committed to a radical agenda that allows criminals and mentally ill Americans to access guns to commit these terrible acts. Is this what the American people elected us to do? I think not. Is this a protection they want or deserve? I think not. Americans are smarter than that. They deserve better than that.

The majority of people who belong to the N.R.A. believe there should be background checks to stop people who are mentally unstable and are criminals from buying guns. Ninety percent of gun owners believe there should be background checks, including eighty-six percent of Republicans. But even in the face of overwhelming public support, Republicans still refuse to join Democrats in taking steps to implement background checks that could save the lives of countless Americans.

We have witnessed the consequences of inaction too often. Why do I say that? This isn’t over the period of many, many years; not decades:

–          Fort Hood: 13 Americans killed

–          Tucson:  6 Americans killed

–          Carson City: 4 Americans killed

–          Newtown: 27 Americans including 22 babies; little tiny children

–          Aurora: 12 Americans killed

–          The Navy Yard here in D.C.: 12 Americans killed

–          Charleston: 9 Americans killed while worshipping.

–          Moneta, Virginia: two journalists shot to death on live television

–          And now the massacre at Umpqua Community College – 9 dead.

These tragic events have shattered the lives of too many families. The shooter was armed with six firearms, loads of ammunition, and when they came to his home, they found 14 guns and another gun. They thought it was only 14, but no, they found another one. So you add them up, 15 plus six. 21 guns, 21 guns. We do not yet know why this young man murdered these innocent people in cold blood, but what does it say about our country that we are willing to stand by idle while these tragedies happen? Smarter gun laws in this country are long overdue. The lives of innocent men, women, and babies and children are at stake.

How many more? How many more innocent lives must be taken before we’re willing to act? How many more communities and families’ lives will be shattered? How many more sacred places of worship will be violently attacked? How many more colleges or schools will be terrorized and forever traumatized by this kind of violence? How many more Americans will be mourned? How many more solemn statements, speeches of condemnation and frank discussions must take place? What will it take before we stand up as a nation and say “enough! Not another innocent American will fall victim to this ideological crusade of having more and more guns.”

I’ve started to reach out to senators and talk about what can be done to advance the cause of background checks while Republicans are in charge for the next year or so. But one thing is clear. To pass background checks, we need Republicans to stop acting as puppets of the N.R.A.