By RICHARD BLUMENTHAL | OP-ED
The Hartford Courant
5:34 PM EDT, April 18, 2013
On Wednesday, the Senate said no to America. But the American people will not take no for an answer.
The first words I heard when Vice President Joe Biden banged the gavel to end the vote Wednesday on the gun purchasing background check bill were, "Shame on you." They were from a rightfully angry mother of a Virginia Tech student who, six years ago this week, was shot twice in the head. This heartbroken mother had the courage to say what all of us fighting for background checks and other common-sense gun laws were feeling.
It was a shameful day for our nation.
But we cannot let shame rule the day. We cannot hide behind the shame and shrug our shoulders and walk away. We must fight. It's what we owe the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. who lost 20 precious children and six brave educators. It's what we owe the more than 3,400 families of those killed by guns since that fateful day in Newtown four months ago. It's what we owe the 90 percent of Americans who support background checks, but whose voices the Senate stifled.
The Sandy Hook shooting was the most heartbreaking, horrific day in my decades of public service — forever seared in my memory.
Wednesday, my heart broke again. I am not alone. That heartbreak drives the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, to say "no" to special interests like the National Rifle Association, which spread distortion and deception.
Let us take heart and inspiration from the resilience of the Newtown families, who turned their unspeakable grief into a determined effort to change our gun laws. As a mother of one of the Newtown children told me after the vote, we must redouble our commitment to fight.
That's exactly what we must do. We must regroup and work together to break the NRA's stranglehold. Their lies must be revealed. The NRA had the nerve to say that the "Connecticut effect" would wear off. That's what they expect and encourage. But Americans will not forget. They must tell senators how outraged they are and that they will hold them accountable. The silent majority must be as vocal and vehement as the minority — many misled by special interests.
I will push for legislation to make our streets and schools safer — legislation that will keep guns away from those who wish to harm to innocent victims. I will work with my colleagues to pass background check legislation. It is an outrage that the bill received a majority vote, but because of a Republican procedure mandating 60 votes, failed to pass.
I will continue to advocate for legislation banning high-capacity magazines. Adam Lanza went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, not with 10-round magazines, but with 30-round magazines that allowed him to fire more than 150 rounds in five minutes — high -apacity clips that enabled his unspeakable slaughter, as they have in more than half of the mass killings since 1982. No one needs the ability to do so much harm in so little time.
I will work for legislation that addresses difficult issues with our mental health system. Weapons must be kept out of the hands of the severely mentally ill. We also need to close loopholes that allow gun trafficking. And, although it's an uphill battle, I will not give up on banning assault weapons.
This week's tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon reminded us that Americans respond to great tragedies with even greater heroism. The same happened in Newtown, where first responders charged toward the sound of gunfire and educators sought to shield students.
The Senate must summon that heroism. We must show that we can say no to special interest extremists and yes to keeping Americans safe. Yes, Wednesday we had a bad vote. But this battle is by no means over. All of us fighting for common-sense gun reform must have the resolve and resilience of the Newtown families, who inspired Washington and the world.
The Connecticut effect is not going away; nor are we. A Newtown mother whose 6-year-old son was murdered at Sandy Hook said she sought to persuade senators with love and logic — ultimately both will prevail.
Richard Blumenthal is a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut.
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