U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet shared personal anecdotes and urged his colleagues to vote for better gun control legislation Wednesday on the Senate floor in the wake of Monday’s deadly shootings in Boulder.
“My heart goes out to all the families, and the entire community of Boulder,” Bennet said. “We have endured too many tragedies as a state.”
On Monday, less than a week after eight people, mostly of Asian descent, were shot and killed in Atlanta, 10 people were killed in a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder. The suspect has been charged and is in custody.
“It’s long past time for Congress to take meaningful action to keep deadly weapons out of the wrong hands,” Bennet said in a news release issued Monday after the shooting. “There are steps that the overwhelming majority of Americans want us to take. And they have every right to expect us to finally do something about gun violence in our country. Enough is enough.”
On Wednesday, he called for similar action.
“We can’t allow this to become normal,” Bennet said on the Senate floor.
Bennet spent 15 minutes talking about the Boulder shooting. In his speech, he shared information about the 10 victims, lamented how younger people, including his 21-year-old daughter, have grown up “in the shadow of gun violence” and urged his fellow senators to pass legislation to prevent future tragedies.
“My daughter’s generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them,” he said.
Bennet, D-Colo., shared the names of the victims, their ages, their occupations and some personal anecdotes, quoting their family and friends in his speech as well as some of their own posts on the internet.
He said each of the victims represent “the best of Colorado.”
“I’m just asking us to show an ounce of their courage, by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities; to pass universal background checks; to limit the size of magazines; to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country,” Bennet said. “It seems like that would be the least that we could do.”
The senator’s tone and presence was solemn during his speech, and he was visibly choked up at times. He frequently paused to wipe away tears.
“They have grown up with a reasonable fear that they will be shot in their classrooms, or in their schools, or at a movie theater, or in any public place,” Bennet said. “I didn’t grow up in an America with more gun-related deaths than virtually any country in this world. And we can’t accept it for their America.”
He brought up the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He said the vote taken in the Senate after the Sandy Hook shooting was “one of the darkest moments” of his career, because “the Senate couldn’t even pass universal background checks.”
“Who are we to insist that they live terrified in their own country? Nobody insisted that we live that way,” Bennet said. “But our failure to act has helped create these conditions. And we can’t wait any longer. The Senate needs to act. There’s nobody else to act but the United States Senate.”
Earlier in this month, the U.S. House passed two bills that would increase background checks on people looking to purchase firearms in a partisan vote. Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., opposed the legislation.
Boebert condemned the violence on Monday, but maintained her stance against gun control and said Democrats should “stop focusing on gun control and start focusing on border control,” in a tweet Thursday.
The two gun-control bills have been received in the Senate, but have yet to be scheduled to be debated or voted on.
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.