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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 12/14/15

We failed to keep them safe

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Message Elizabeth Warren
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Sandy Hook School Shooting Massacre
Sandy Hook School Shooting Massacre
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On December 14, 2012, 20 innocent children and six heroic teachers and staff members were murdered in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That's 20 children who didn't have birthday parties this year...20 children who didn't get to put a tooth out for the tooth fairy...20 children who won't be singing in a holiday pageant this year.

The number of victims is far more than 20. I meet mamas and daddies, sisters and grandmas who have lost children and grandchildren to gun violence -- communities of people whose days will forever be marked by loss. I meet them, and I promise we will not forget.

After the massacre at Sandy Hook, it finally felt like we had reached a moment that we could agree to put aside our differences and move toward better gun safety.

The bipartisan Manchin-Toomey bill proposed in the wake of Sandy Hook would have closed the background check loophole for gun shows and Internet sales. It seemed like the very least we could do, really. I had only been in office a few months, but I was optimistic that we had the votes to make it happen.

Then on April 17, 2013, the NRA shut it down. Manchin-Toomey failed.

I stood on the floor of the United States Senate, stunned and appalled. I thought: What has happened to this country? What has happened to this democracy that one interest group can put the entire country at risk? Where is our political courage?

Some states have stepped in, taking action to pass stronger gun legislation. I'm proud that Massachusetts has some of the toughest laws in the country. But strong gun laws in Massachusetts won't stop someone from going to a gun show in New Hampshire or Maine, states that don't require a permit or license to buy guns, and bringing those guns across the border. Congress must act.

Day after day, month after month, the shootings keep happening. Mass shootings, drive-by shootings, random shootings. Children shot at school. Women targeted at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Four people shot outside a bar next to Fenway on Thanksgiving.

And Congress still does nothing.

Eleven days ago, the Senate voted on that Manchin-Toomey background check bill once again. The Senate had another chance to learn from its past mistakes, to show its political courage, to take one small step to keep our children and communities safe -- and Manchin-Toomey received fewer votes than it did in 2013. In fact, the Senate even defeated an amendment that would have stopped people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

We cannot stand by while the NRA sets the agenda in Washington. So I'd like to ask you to do three things:

  1. Call your senators and your member of Congress. The NRA is loud in Washington -- and we need to be louder. It only takes a minute: A staff assistant will answer the phone. Tell him/her your name, where you're from, and that you support common-sense gun reform. (If you don't want to make a call, you can also go to his/her websites and fill out the contact forms.) People in Congress keep track of these calls, so please pick up the phone. (Click here to look up your senators' phone numbers and here to look up your representative's number.)

  2. Talk to your friends and family -- especially ones who may not be on this email list. The majority of Americans -- even your Republican relatives and even people who own guns -- support background checks. Ask them to call or write their representatives, too. This is how we magnify our voices.

  3. Check to see if your representatives will have any events back home during the holiday break. If there's something going on -- anything -- please show up and remind them that they work for people like you, not the NRA. Ask them, face-to-face, for sensible gun safety laws.

Change is up to us. We need to put some energy into this. We must show that we are as committed to gun safety as the NRA is committed to putting guns in the hands of people who endanger all of us.

Today is the three-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- an anniversary that will be seared into my brain for as long as I live. It isn't enough to remember -- we need to act.

A new billboard from Stop Handgun Violence is also going up in Boston today. It's a constant reminder that gun violence in our communities is not inevitable. We can change the laws if we just work hard enough.

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Elizabeth Warren was assistant to the president and a special adviser to the Treasury secretary on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She single-handedly set us this bureau, putting in place the building blocks for an agency that will (more...)

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