Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, first let me thank Chairman Leahy for those words in his exchange with Senator Durbin. I wish to offer my deepest condolences on behalf of all of the people of Maryland to the 20 students who lost their lives, and the 6 adults, at the hands of a single shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
It is heart-breaking to listen to the stories of innocent lives cut cruelly short. The pain and grief of the families and friends of these students and teachers is unimaginable.
I want to echo some of the comments Senator Durbin and Senator Leahy made. We know the teachers and the aides put their lives on the line in order to try to save the children, as well as the unbelievable task of the first responders coming to the scene and not knowing what they would find. We send our prayers to all.
This is a tragedy beyond words. I think President Obama said it best last night that our hearts are broken. But as Senator Durbin has said–and I say to Senator Leahy, I particularly want to thank the Senator–we need to take action. Congress needs to come together and take action to protect the safety of our children. We must do better. There have been too many episodes in which children’s lives–and others–have been lost that we must figure out ways to prevent these types of tragedies.
This conversation must include a discussion about the culture of violence that permeates our culture today, including the glorification of violence to our children and young adults. We see too much of this violence, and it has to have an impact on young children. We need to know how we can responsibly deal with this circumstance.
It must include a discussion of the mental health services provided to Americans, including our students. Many of us have talked about this in the past. We have to be more aggressive in dealing with the mental health needs of all the people in our community.
As Chairman Leahy pointed out, we must discuss the issue about the ready access of individuals to weapons. I know there are different views in this Congress. I must tell you, I do not understand why we need to allow access to military-style assault weapons and ammunition.
I strongly support Senator Feinstein‘s efforts to reinstate the expired 1994 ban on assault weapons, including a ban on ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Senator Durbin has raised a very valid point: We regulate automobiles. We regulate consumer products. We regulate a lot, as we should, for public safety, and we should regulate firearms for public safety reasons.
There is no need for assault weapons to be held by the public. In my view, there is no legitimate reason for a civilian to possess a military-style weapon or to have large capacity ammunition clips. Congress should also examine whether we can strengthen our background check system for gun buyers, along with criminal penalties for those who illegally purchase or transfer guns.
We need to take a look at safety locks for children. We need to look at those who make multiple purchases. We need to look at the gun show purchases. I think we should examine all those to see whether we can make our communities safer, without infringing upon the legitimate right of individuals to possess guns, sportsmen to be able to use guns for hunting. I think all that, obviously, will be protected. But we can do a much better job of protecting public safety.
We have talked about this before, and we need to act. We need to act in a comprehensive way to make our society safer. I pledge to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee–I have had the honor of serving on that committee for 4 years. He is an extremely fair leader who believes in letting all sides be heard, and I very much appreciate his commitment in so many different areas that have dealt with public safety. We have great confidence in his leadership on that committee, and other committees of the Senate need to act as it relates to the safety of our children.