(Senate - April 17, 2013)

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[Pages S2697-S2699]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                        PREVENTING GUN VIOLENCE

  Mr. REID. Mr. President, today this august body will honor the memory 
of 20 first grade children. Little babies were gunned down, most of 
them shot multiple times. But we will also honor the teachers and 
administrators who were killed that day in Newtown, CT. We are also 
going to honor with this legislation tens of thousands of others who 
are killed by guns each year in America. We are going to do that by 
voting on a number of measures to strengthen the laws to prevent gun 
violence in this Nation.
  The families of the innocents killed in Newtown and Aurora, in Carson 
City and Blacksburg, in Oak Creek and Columbine, deserve these votes.
  Where do I stand on these Democratic proposals?
  This afternoon the Senate will vote on a compromise background check 
proposal crafted by Senators Manchin, Toomey, Kirk, and Schumer--all 
experienced legislators. I very much appreciate their principled stands 
on legislation supported by 90 percent of the American people.
  The American people overwhelmingly support this commonsense proposal 
which would close gaping loopholes in the law and keep guns out of the 
hands of bad people--criminals--and people with severe mental illness.
  What it would not do--what it would not do is create a national 
registry of guns or gun owners. In fact, that is specifically outlawed 
in the legislation. I refer everyone to page 27 of the Manchin-Toomey 
compromise legislation. It not only bans a registry, but it creates a 
15-year felony sentence for any government official found storing these 
gun records. So please start talking about that, all the opponents of 
this bill. Because it is absolutely false, it is untrue, and it is 
unfair. Claims that this legislation would create a gun registry are 
nothing more than shameful scare tactics.

  If any of my colleagues wish to vote against stronger background 
checks, go ahead and do it and oppose the will of the American people.
  That is their right. But the American people have a very long memory. 

[[Page S2698]]

vote against something that 90 percent of the American people want, the 
American people are not going to forget about that. The opponents of 
the will of the American people should not spread misinformation or sow 
seeds of fear about this critical antiviolence legislation. But that is 
what they are doing, that is what they have done, and it is absolutely 
false and misleading.
  Assault weapons, we are going to vote on Senator Feinstein's proposal 
to ban assault weapons. She has been stalwart in her advocacy for this 
  I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Americans' right to 
keep and bear arms. That is how I earned a B grade with the National 
Rifle Association.
  When I was a 12-year-old little boy, in Searchlight, NV, my parents 
sent away for a Sears catalog and bought me a 12 gauge shotgun--a great 
big gun. That gun held five in the tube and you put one in the 
chamber--six 12 gauge shotgun shells.
  I carried a handgun when I was a police officer and, frankly, on 
other occasions. From where I come from, people own guns as a matter of 
course--for self-defense and for hunting and for sportsman activities, 
target shooting.
  I still go target shooting basically out in my backyard in 
Searchlight with my grandchildren, but I have always had trouble 
understanding why people need assault weapons to hunt or to protect 
their homes or to target shoot.
  When the assault weapons ban came before the Senate for a vote 10 
years ago, I called my friends--one in particular who was a real 
advocate on guns. He said to me: You know, you can't define an assault 
weapon. Why are you doing this? You just can't define an assault 
  He convinced me he was right, so I voted against that. That seemed 
reasonable to me, and I voted against the ban.
  Just about a month ago, I called this same friend. I asked if his 
opinion had changed: Generally, no, but specifically, yes, it had 
changed. He still opposes a ban on assault weapons.
  I said: Tell me why. I found his new reasoning absurd, and even 
though I care a great deal about my friend, he is headed in the wrong 
direction. So it caused me to reassess my position.
  He said: Do police have assault weapons?
  I said: Yes, some of them.
  He said: If they have them, I want them.
  Then he said: Does the military have assault weapons?
  I said: Yes.
  He said: If they have them, I want them.
  I thought for some time about what that statement means. It was not a 
rash decision I made. But what it means is there should be no limits on 
the kinds of weapons private citizens are allowed to own.
  I asked myself whether I believe that to be true. The police have 
riot gear and tear gas and battering rams and others things. Should 
civilians have them? Obviously, no.
  The military has rocket-propelled grenades, other kinds of rockets, 
machine guns, tanks, fighter jets. Should civilians have those also? 
Please. It does not make sense.
  So I decided the answer is no. In a civil society, where we have to 
balance individual rights with public safety, there should be limits--
significant limits--on the kind of destructive weapons people are 
allowed to own.
  I believe--I repeat for the second time today--in the right to own a 
gun to protect your home and your family, to hunt, to go target 
practicing. I will continue to defend that right as long as I am 
serving the people of Nevada.
  But you do not need an assault weapon to defend yourself or your 
property. Assault weapons have one purpose and one purpose only: to 
kill a large number of people very quickly. This goes well beyond the 
purpose of self-defense.
  The desire to arm ourselves against the young men and women who 
willingly risk their lives to defend our freedoms--soldiers, sailors, 
marines; the Navy, the Air Force--is not a reason to oppose an assault 
weapons ban.
  The wish to arm ourselves against the police who keep our streets 
safe is not a reason to oppose an assault weapons ban.
  I believe as Americans we have a right to arm ourselves against 
criminals, but we do not need the ability to arm ourselves against the 
Army or the police. The U.S. military is not out to get us. Federal law 
enforcement, local police departments, are not out to get us.
  These conspiracy theories are dangerous and they should be put to 
rest. In the real world--not this conspiratorial world that some live 
in--in the real world, in addition to mowing down first graders, 
assault weapons are used to shoot down the very people who have sworn 
to protect us.
  Here is one real-world example in Nevada: After serving 9 months in 
Afghanistan with his National Guard unit, SSG Ian Michael Deutch was 
eager to return to his day job as a police officer in Nye County, NV. 
He could not wait to get back to work. He survived Afghanistan--bombs, 
bullets, acts of terrorism. He survived.
  His second day back on the job--second day back on the job--he was 
shot and killed by a man with an assault weapon with a 30-round clip.
  Sergeant Deutch was responding to a domestic dispute in Pahrump, NV, 
when he was shot three times in the chest. One of the bullets even 
pierced his body armor. An assault weapon pierced the body armor the 
police officer was wearing.
  He was airlifted to Las Vegas, rushed into emergency surgery, and he 
died within a few hours. He was 27 years old, had survived Afghanistan 
but not America. All 730 soldiers in Michael's squadron returned alive 
from their tour of duty in Afghanistan. They were so thankful and 
proud. It was a criminal on the streets of the United States of 
America, our country, armed with a weapon designed to kill who took 
Michael's life--his young life.
  Here is what his mom said:

       He was finally safe. In our country. And somebody here 
     kills him.

  That is what she said. That is a tragedy, and it is one we could have 
prevented by keeping weapons of war off the streets. We can keep them 
off the streets. We should keep them off the streets.
  In the 1920s, organized crime was committing murders with machine 
guns. We have seen them in the movies--the Valentine's Day Massacre. So 
Congress dramatically limited the sale and transfer of machine guns a 
long time ago. As a result, machine guns basically disappeared from the 
streets. They are in the movies, but private citizens do not have them.
  We can and should take the same commonsense approach to safeguard 
Americans from modern weapons of war, assault weapons. That is why I 
will vote for Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban; we must strike a 
better balance between the right to defend ourselves and the right of 
every child in America to grow up safe from gun violence. I will vote 
for the ban because maintaining law and order is more important than 
satisfying conspiracy theorists who believe in black helicopters and 
false flags. I will vote for the ban because saving the lives of police 
officers, young and old, and innocent civilians, young and old, is more 
important than preventing imagined tyranny.
  High-capacity magazines--clips is what I call them my reason for 
supporting a ban on large ammunition magazines is similar. These large 
clips are designed to kill--not to kill a deer or a duck or any other 
game, large or small, they are designed to kill humans, living, 
breathing human beings, people from Hawaii, people from Kentucky, 
people from Nevada--our citizens. They are designed to kill.
  In fact, it is not even legal to load more than 3 shotgun shells--let 
alone 30--to hunt birds. I talked to the Presiding Officer earlier 
about my shotgun. I told him that it could hold six shells, but we had 
to plug that gun because that was the law. By law, we had to limit the 
amount of ammo in that shotgun, so we had to plug it so it could only 
shoot three--two in the magazine, one in the chamber. That way, when 
you went bird hunting, you gave birds a sporting chance. You could only 
fire three times. As Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia--the 
courageous Senator from West Virginia--said, ``I do not know anybody 
that needs 30 rounds in a weapon to go hunting.'' Take 30 and reload. 
So why should we not limit the number of bullets in a clip? Don't 
people deserve as much protection as birds?

[[Page S2699]]

  Limiting magazine size will force shooters bent on taking a life to 
reload more often. When this madman with the strange-colored hair 
walked into that Aurora, CO, movie theater with a semiautomatic weapon 
and a 100-round drum magazine, the only thing that spared many 
survivors was the fact that the shooter's gun jammed. Think of the 
carnage, in addition to what already was so bad, that would have taken 
  In Tucson, AZ--we met here in Washington yesterday with Gabby 
Giffords, a woman who was shot right in the head by a man who should 
have not had a gun. But he emptied a 33-round clip in less than 30 
seconds, killing 6 and injuring many more, including Gabby Giffords.
  In Carson City, NV, a mentally ill man went to an IHOP during 
breakfast time and killed four people. Three of them were National 
Guard personnel going to work. He shot 80 rounds in 80 seconds using 
30-round clips.
  Limiting the size of clips will not hurt hunters and sportsmen, but 
it will save lives. So I am going to vote in support of the Blumenthal-
Lautenberg amendment.
  In the case of Carson City, the example I just gave, let's talk a 
little bit about mental health. That incident at the IHOP restaurant 
reveals a tragedy, of course, but also the deficiencies in this 
Nation's mental health treatment system. That is another important part 
of our discussion about how to prevent gun violence. We simply have not 
done a good job of providing funding for and access to mental health 
services. This should be a bipartisan issue. Going back many years, it 
was bipartisan--Wellstone-Domenici.
  While we have done a better job of doing certain things in mental 
health, we have done a poor job of removing the stigma that keeps 
Americans from seeking the treatment they need. We must do better. So 
the bill reported out of the HELP Committee, led my Chairman Harkin, 
begins the work of improving access to critical services.
  I hope to be able to have shortly--after we finish this list of 
amendments--the ability to move to Senator Stabenow's measure. She has 
worked with others on another bipartisan piece of legislation to go 
even further in doing something about the mental health problems so 
that we can alleviate, at least on occasion, these terrible tragedies.
  As I have said many times, the efforts will not stop every criminal 
bent on violence, but last year's terrible tragedy in Newtown was a 
wake-up call that we are not doing enough to keep our citizens safe. It 
is hard to even comprehend the scope of the tragedy, let alone recover 
from it, but part of the healing process is this remarkable 
conversation about how to prevent violence in America. That 
conversation is taking place in America today because of Boston and 
because of the thousands of people killed with guns every year. Part of 
the healing process is examining what can be done to prevent more 
tragedies such as the ones in Newton, CT; Aurora, CO; Oak Creek, WI; 
Carson City, NV; and multiple other places. I believe that if we can 
save the life of a single American, we owe to it ourselves to try. That 
is going to take courage by some people.
  President Monson, the president of the Mormon Church, said this about 

       Life's journey is not traveled on a freeway devoid of 
     obstacles, pitfalls and snares. Rather, it is a pathway 
     marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before 
     us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to 
     say, ``no,'' the courage to say, ``yes.''

  The courage today to say yes. Decisions do determine destiny. Today 
our decision will determine the destiny of our country. Today I choose 
to vote my conscience not only as Harry Reid a Senator but also as a 
husband, a father, a grandfather, and I hope a friend to lots and lots 
of people. I choose to vote my conscience because if a tragedy strikes 
again--sorry to say it will--if innocents are gunned down in a 
classroom, theater, or restaurant, I would have trouble living with 
myself as a Senator, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend 
knowing I did not do everything in my power to prevent that.