Statement as prepared for delivery Tuesday by Nevada Sen. Harry Reid spoke on the U.S. Senate floor:
Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. I got my first gun when I was just a young boy. On my 12th birthday, my parents sent away for a 12-gauge shotgun from the Sears catalogue. It is a beautiful gun.
But, like most Americans, I also believe the right to bear arms must be balanced with the right of all the little boys and girls in this country – whether they to live in inner city Chicago or sleepy Newtown – to grow up safe from the threat of gun violence.
Most gun owners are good, responsible people, who love target shooting and hunting or want to protect their homes and families. But we have a responsibility to do everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and those who suffer from mental illnesses that make them a danger to themselves and others. We have a responsibility to safeguard our most vulnerable and most precious resource – our children. And the terrible tragedy in Newtown was a wakeup call: we are failing.
It is long past time for a thoughtful examination of the lax laws and the culture of violence that put Newtown and Aurora, Oak Creek and Carson City on the map for such a devastating reason. I only hope Senate Republicans will allow us to have that conversation. I hope Republicans will stop trying to shut down debate, and start engaging on the tough issues we were sent to Washington to tackle.
As President Obama has said, it is impossible to prevent every senseless tragedy. But we owe it to our children to try.
It’s just common sense that felons who couldn’t pass a background check in a gun store shouldn’t be able to walk into a gun show and buy a deadly weapon. Forty percent of the guns sold in the United States each year – including many used to commit crimes – are sold legally at gun shows or through private sales, without even the most basic background check.
Three years ago, one of those guns – a shotgun purchased legally without a background check during a 2008 gun show in Kingman, Arizona – was used to shoot up the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, just as prospective jurors were arriving for the day. Seventy-two-year-old security guard Stanley Cooper, of Sandy Valley, Nevada, was killed instantly in the hail of gunfire.
He left behind a brother, four sons and a daughter, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Stanley loved to spend time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved horses and spending time outdoors. And Stanley was no stranger to guns. He spent 26 years serving his community as a Las Vegas Metro Police officer.
The man who shot him, on the other hand, was a convicted felon with no right to carry a firearm. He certainly couldn’t have passed a criminal background check. But the shooter never had to get one.
Requiring a simple background check every time a gun is sold is just common sense. That’s why more than 90 percent of Americans – including the vast majority of gun owners – support our proposal to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with severe mental illnesses by instituting universal background checks.
Our legislation would also crack down on anyone who buys a gun as part of a scheme to funnel it to criminals – reducing violent crime and protecting police officers. And our bill would give schools across the country the resources to improve security and keep kids safe.
This legislation won’t prevent every heinous crime. And background checks won’t keep guns out of the hands of every violent madman. But we owe it to Americans to act if there’s a chance to save even one life – whether that life belongs to a great-grandfather like Stanley Cooper or a small child who has barely begun to live.