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Rep. John Lewis Denounces Senate Inaction on Guns

April 18, 2013
Press Release

Rep. John Lewis made this statement today in response the Senate’s inability to pass background check legislation: 

“I am deeply dismayed by the inability of my colleagues in the Senate to pass a bipartisan proposal to require background checks before guns can be purchased in this country.  We are standing in the wake of the Newtown Massacre and the everyday occurrence of gun violence in too many American cities.  I ask my Senate colleagues when will enough finally be enough? 

How many children must be killed before we have the courage to take one step to protect American lives and communities?  The blood of the innocent is crying out from their graves.  It is our responsibility to make sure they did not die in vain.

The American people have delivered a clear mandate to this Congress.  They have placed their trust and authority in our hands.  They expect us to have the guts to enact their will and pass legislation that restricts the availability of guns in our communities. 

They have not demanded a wholesale ban on gun sales, but have conceded to a reasonable intervention in this matter, a simple background check that would help ensure gun ownership is limited to responsible citizens.  The Senate’s inability to act on this mandate is a disgrace.  It is heartless.  

A shameful cowardice was displayed on the Senate floor today and an amazing lack of courage.  The people of this nation should have a sense of righteous indignation by the failure of this body to take any action steps on this issue.  The people must make their voices heard.  They should let members of Congress know why they were elected and whom they were sent here to serve.”

On December 14, 2012, the tragic shooting of innocent children, teachers, and school administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut shook our nation to its very core.  Twenty-six people died on that horrific day, and around the country Americans mourned.  They demanded action – expecting Congress to do something to break the cycle of senseless violence and mass killings.

Committees in the House and Senate held numerous, emotional meetings and hearings.  Within weeks, House Democrats established a Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce chaired by Mike Thompson (D-CA) himself a hunter and gun owner and began exhaustive outreach towards the development of an informed, comprehensive approach to reduce and prevent gun violence in our nation.

Senate leaders began crafting legislation, and finally it seemed that there was a path forward with the introduction of S. 649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, legislation which takes critical steps to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in our country. 

For nearly a month, the Senate has tried to move this bill.   Finally, hope was restored when Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Patrick Toomey (R-PA) agreed to offer a compromise amendment on background checks.   Today, this amendment failed on the Senate Floor by a vote of 54-46; four Republicans supported this bipartisan path forward