November 19, 2019

Cardin Calls for Action on Gun Safety Legislation Following Mass Shooting at Saugus High School

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) entered the following statement into the Congressional Record today calling for action on gun safety legislation following the recent mass shooting in Santa Clarita, California, where two Saugus High School students were killed. 

"Mr. President, I implore the Senate to take up legislation addressing America’s gun violence epidemic. We must pass legislation requiring universal and completed background checks for individuals seeking to purchase a gun, to help ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands, with deadly results.

"Last week, on the morning of November 14th, it was a normal Thursday at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. Just before second period, a 16-year-old boy pulled a semiautomatic pistol out of his backpack. In just 16 seconds, he shot 5 of his classmate, killing two. A short time later, he turned the gun on himself. 

"After hearing the gunshots, Katie Holt, a teacher at Saugus High School, rushed students into her classroom and barricaded the door. One of the injured girls made it into Holt’s classroom. Thankfully and incredibly, Holt had a gunshot wound kit in case of a school shooting. The girl had been shot twice and Holt only had one kit. Holt dressed the two wounds as best she could with one kit, while a freshman student applied pressure. The injured girl survived.

"Katie Holt’s preparedness and quick action likely saved that young girl’s life. As we commend her heroic actions, we have to ask ourselves, how did we get to this point? How did we get a place where American teachers feel obligated to keep gunshot wound kits in their classrooms?

"We also mourn the tragic loss of life in several other recent mass shootings.  On November 18, three people were killed outside a Walmart in Duncan, Oklahoma.  Just this past weekend, on November 17 in Fresno, California, 10 individuals were shot and 4 were killed at a football watch party.  On October 31 in Orina, California, 5 individuals were killed and 4 wounded at a Halloween block party.  And we all remember the horrific spate of mass shootings this summer, including those in Texas, Ohio, California, and Virginia, leading to dozens killed.

"In February 2019, the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, by a bipartisan vote of 240-190. That month the House also passed H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.  Since that time, these bills have languished in the Senate where the Republican leader refuses to allow Senate consideration.

"By refusing to take up legislation to require universal and completed background checks, the Senate is failing the American people. We have a responsibility to pass common sense gun reform to end the senseless bloodshed.

"We need gun reform now, not only to address our country’s seemingly endless cycle of mass shootings, but we need gun safety legislation now because our communities are ravaged by daily gun violence that does not make news headlines.

"On average, about every 13 hours, someone is killed with a gun in Maryland. On average, 656 Marylanders die from fatal gunshot wounds every year. Firearms are the first leading cause of death among children and teens in Maryland. African-American children and teens in Maryland are 5 times as likely as their white peers to die by guns.  In Maryland, African-Americans are 16 times as likely to die by gun homicide as white people.

"In 2017, 53 percent of the guns recovered from Maryland crime scenes came from another state. Often, these guns used in crimes in Maryland are from states with more lenient gun control laws.

"American women are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. 4.5 million women in the United States have been threatened with a gun by their current or previous intimate partner. It’s estimated that 900,000 American women have been shot or shot at by their current or previous intimate partner. When there is a gun present during a domestic violence situation, a woman’s risk of being killed goes up 500 percent.

"In Maryland, from 2013 to 2017, 48 women were fatally shot by an intimate partner. African-American women are 1.7 times more likely as white women to be fatally shot by a partner.

"These are women like Maryland resident, Timira Hopkins. Hopkins’ relationship with her boyfriend was abusive, and he had made threats before. One night in 2014, Hopkins’ boyfriend delivered on his threats, shooting Hopkins 5 times before killing himself. Incredibly, Hopkins survived, but the right side of her face is paralyzed and she is deaf in one ear. In September of this year, Hopkins shared her story on NPR in the hopes she can help other survivors.  

"We need to do more for brave women like Timira Hopkins. We need to join her in the fight to protect people suffering from domestic violence. This body understands the dangerous potential consequences of domestic violence perpetrators owning guns. That’s why in 1996, we passed the Lautenberg Amendment, banning gun ownership for individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. However, without universal background checks, we can’t effectively enforce this prohibition and keep guns out of the hands of violent abusers.

"An estimated 22 percent of U.S. gun owners purchased their most recent firearm without a background check.  When background checks are not required, domestic abusers get ahold of guns. In 2018, Sara Schmidt was murdered by her husband, who should have been prohibited from purchasing a firearm because of a domestic violence felony. Schmidt’s husband purchased the gun he used to murder Sara from an online private seller, bypassing background check requirements.

"Passing legislation to expand background checks to every gun sale – including those conducted online, at gun shows, and through private transfers – should be the top priority in Congress.  Congress should also make sure that background checks are fully completed before a gun sale is finally approved.

"There is no one answer which will fix America’s gun violence epidemic. But we can’t let the complexity of the problem paralyze us. We need to take steps forward.

"The American people deserve action. They’re demanding action. An overwhelming majority of Americans — 97 percent — support expanding background checks.

"Congress must listen to the 97 percent of Americans and take action. We cannot wait any longer. While we wait Americans are dying, and communities are traumatized by violence. We must do the right thing and take up the House legislation requiring universal and completed background checks for individuals seeking to purchase a gun.  The time for action is now."

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