Weekly Democratic Address
February 28, 2020
Hello. I’m Richard Blumenthal. I am proud to represent Connecticut in the United States Senate.
One year ago, the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan bill that boasts a ninety percent approval rate from the American people.
The goal of H.R. 8 – the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 – is simple: to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The bill doesn’t impose any additional restrictions on gun ownership, it just ensures that if you shouldn’t have access to a firearm – if you’ve committed a felony, for example – you can’t skirt the law by buying a gun online or at a gun show.
That’s it – an enforcement mechanism to prevent dangerous people from accessing weapons.
If that doesn’t sound controversial, that’s because it isn’t – it’s supported by nearly all Americans, including the vast majority of gun owners.
But this basic, commonsense bill has been stonewalled in the Senate by Leader Mitch McConnell and a Republican majority that cares more about their NRA rating than the lives of their constituents.
When I think about this issue, what I recall is what I heard from the Senate galleries after we failed to reach the required sixty-vote threshold to approve expanded background checks after the Sandy Hook shooting, when one of the Newtown parents shouted “Shame!”
Shame is exactly what the Republican majority in the Senate should feel for its failure to act on background checks and other commonsense gun violence prevention measures.
Shame is exactly what my Republican colleagues should feel every single day as one hundred additional American lives are lost to gun violence, including at least five workers shot and killed at Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee earlier this week.
I’ll be very blunt: my Republican colleagues can either stand with the American people on this issue or stand with the NRA. The American people are watching.
I’ve been advocating for stronger gun violence prevention measures for most of my public life, and I’m often asked why this moment is different.
Here’s the answer: We have built a grassroots movement that is effecting seismic change.
Led by gun violence survivors, students and young people, family members, emergency room doctors, and others, the American public is standing up and saying, “enough.”
This incredible activism is why states are taking action where Congress has failed. A Republican legislature in Florida approved a number of gun violence prevention measures after Parkland and they were signed into law by a Republican governor. Eighteen states have emergency risk protection order statutes on the books. Twelve states require universal background checks.
The ground is shifting seismically.
But state action doesn’t absolve Senator McConnell and Republicans in Congress from doing their job.
Guns don’t observe state boundaries. States with the strongest, most effective gun violence prevention laws are at the mercy of those with the weakest.
And that’s why we need to pass H.R. 8.
And that’s why we should close the Charleston loophole, pass a federal “red flag” statute, ensure that domestic abusers are no longer allowed to possess a firearm, and eliminate the sweetheart deal that protects gun manufacturers from legal liability.
Opponents of gun violence prevention are on the wrong side of this issue, they’re on the wrong side of public opinion, and they’re on the wrong side of history.