Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 children and six adults were killed as the shooter fired more than 150 rounds of ammunition within five minutes. I was horrified by how those children died -- shot at close range with a high-powered rifle with each child hit as many as 11 times. I was also haunted by what could have happened if the killer had more time -- he was prepared to slaughter hundreds of children. The tragedy convinced me that we needed to do more to protect our kids.
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook, there was an outpouring of support for families and the community affected, and a renewed interest in concrete action. In April of this year, the United States Senate took up a bipartisan package of legislative reforms that would have expanded background checks on firearms sold at gun shows or online. The amendments offered would have helped law enforcement efforts targeting the illegal transfer of guns, and limited certain military-grade weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, making it harder to shoot large numbers of people in a brief timeframe. These commonsense proposals would help keep powerful weapons out of the hands of wrongdoers without infringing on the fundamental Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. Despite overwhelming public support, these measures did not pass. I am deeply disappointed that the Senate was unable to come to an agreement on this critical issue.
In the 12 months since Sandy Hook, there have been 26 school shootings in the United States. Mass shootings have tripled since to 2008. We simply cannot afford to wait for the next tragedy to occur before we address gun violence.
A comprehensive approach demands improvement of our mental health system, robust support for state, local and federal law enforcement and the commonsense regulation of firearms. While no single proposal would stop every tragedy from occurring, each would constitute a positive step toward addressing firearm violence. Every elected official should ask: Have I done enough to substantially reduce the likelihood that this ever happens again?
I am a strong defender of the Second Amendment. Pennsylvania has a rich tradition of hunting and I believe strongly that people should be able have guns for protection, sporting and collection. But, I also believe we need sensible gun legislation that will help to prevent these tragedies. This should not be the end of the road.
On the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, I, like so many Americans, remain haunted by memories of December 14, 2012. Elected officials have an abiding obligation to take action against gun violence. We owe it to our children to redouble our efforts to do everything in our power to prevent another tragedy.