FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 21, 2013
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN AND FAMILIES FROM NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT DISCUSS NEED FOR COMMON-SENSE FEDERAL GUN LAWS
More Than 900 Mayors and 1.4 Million Supporters Have Joined Coalition to End Gun Violence; www.DemandAction.org
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered today in the Blue Room at City Hall:
“Well good morning, everyone. Today we’re honored to welcome some very special guests to City Hall. First, with us is the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.
“The Vice President, as you know, is leading the Obama Administration’s efforts to implement and enact the kind of common-sense gun safety measures that most Americans clearly want, and we’ve been doing everything we can to support him. And I will say that Joe has been a standup guy. He is a believer in this – he did when he was in Congress, and now in the White House Joe Biden understands what this country needs and he’s been willing to stand up and say so and fight for it.
“We’re also joined by a number of people whose lives have been deeply scarred by gun violence. Last December 14th, Chris and Lynn McDonnell’s daughter, Grace, and Neil Heslin’s son, Jesse Lewis, were among 20 children who walked through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and who never came home. Chris, Lynn, Neil: Thank you for being with us today.
“We’re also joined by Teresa Rousseau and Bill Leukhardt, Gilles and Joyce Rousseau, Matthew Rousseau, and Anthony Lusardi III. They’re here to bear witness to the memory of another victim of the Sandy Hook shootings: Their daughter, step-daughter, sister, and girlfriend, Lauren Rousseau.
“She was a permanent substitute teacher in the first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and was one of the six adults at the school gunned down as she tried to shield students there. So thank you to all of you for joining us as well.
“As a parent, quite honestly I can’t imagine what the past three months have been like for all of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook, and how hard it is for you to be with us today. I appreciate your courage, and I think you bear testimony to the fact that this country has to do something. You’re not here just for your loved ones, you’re here for not only those who were killed and their families, but those who are killed across this country. We have to pull together here and stop this carnage.
“There is a Jewish proverb which tells us that ‘remembrance is the secret of redemption.’ The lesson is: If we ignore the horrors of the past, we are doomed to repeat them. But if we remember them – and if we learn from them – we can redeem ourselves from their grip.
“That’s why all of us are here today: Because we believe that we have a responsibility to help free our country from the gun violence that takes lives and breaks hearts every single day all year round.
“What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School sent a shockwave across the country. It gripped us especially hard, I think, because every parent thought there but for the grace of God go my children.
“In the days and weeks after the shootings, more and more people began demanding action in Washington – and our bipartisan coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns helped to make sure their voices were heard. And I think it’s fair to say those voices were heard.
“President Obama and Vice President Biden put forward a comprehensive package of gun safety reforms – and we’ve worked together to win support for it in Congress. We remain optimistic that Congress will take action this spring when they come back from recess because the American people could not be any clearer about where they stand.
“In a recent poll conducted by our mayors’ coalition, we found that in 41 key Congressional districts across the nation, 89 percent of likely voters approve of background checks for all guns sales; and 86 percent of voters approved such background checks in polls in a national cross-section of 21 states.
“That’s in line with other recent polls that have found that more than 90 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers.
“And polling overseen by Republican Frank Luntz has found that 82 percent of gun owners – including 74 percent of National Rifle Association members – support requiring criminal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun.
“There is no real debate among the American people. Around the country, Americans understand that requiring a background check for every gun sale is just good common sense. Some states are taking action – including New York, thanks to Governor Cuomo, and Colorado, thanks to Governor Hickenlooper who has seen such terrible mass murders.
“And in Connecticut, Governor Malloy has proposed, and legislators appear prepared to act on, firearms safety reforms, as well. They include making more private gun sales subject to background checks, limiting the size of high-capacity ammunition magazines, and strengthening anti-gun trafficking measures.
“Newtown families have played a big role in advancing this proposed legislation. They can speak from firsthand pain, but such State action is not enough. This is a national problem, because guns sold in states with weak gun laws all too often found crossing state lines and are used to commit crimes elsewhere. So we really need national leadership in Washington if we’re going to stop this scourge.
“Thankfully, there has been some encouraging progress. For example, last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a number of reforms, including a measure to expand background checks to private gun sales, which is how some 40 percent of gun purchases in the nation are made – more than six and a half million gun sales during 2012 alone.
“There is no question that if this becomes law, it will keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. It will reduce violent crime. It will save lives.
“We know that’s true, because in states that already require background checks on private sales, the rate of women murdered by an intimate partner armed with a gun is 38 percent lower than in states that don’t have background checks. The rate of firearms suicides is 49 percent lower. And the rate of firearm assaults – including attempted murders – is 17 percent lower.
“So, there’s no doubt that requiring background checks for all gun sales saves lives. And there’s no doubt that the American people support it.
“The only question is whether Congress will have the courage to do the right thing – or whether they will allow more innocent people, including innocent children, to be gunned down.
“It has been 97 days since Newtown. In that time, we estimate that more than 3,000 Americans have been murdered with guns. Almost none of the victims generated national headlines, but each murder was a tragedy – for the victim’s family, and for the community.
“If Congress does nothing, another 12,000 people will be murdered with guns this year alone. We just cannot let that happen, and it’s up to us – all of us – to convince members of Congress that it’s in everyone’s interest to act now.
“Now, before I turn the floor over to the Vice President, let me just say that there is no better person to be leading this effort in Washington than Vice President Biden. When he was in the Senate, he was a leader in getting the original background check bill through Congress, and in drafting the original assault weapons ban.
“Even though restrictions on military-style weapons will not be part of the bill that goes to the floor of the U.S. Senate, it will get a vote by the full Senate, as an amendment to the bill, and everyone is going to have to stand up and say yay or nay. And then the rest of us have to decide just how we feel about people and their stance.
“We will do everything to win support for it. And I know the White House will be doing everything they can, too. And we’re going to continue giving the Vice President all the support we can – and we thank him for his leadership, and for coming here to stand with us today.
Marc La Vorgna / John J. McCarthy (212) 788-2958
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