On June 16, 2014 Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut was granted permission to address the United States Senate regarding the important issue of gun violence.
What follows is an unedited copy of his entire speech:
“Mr. President, I hope the Presiding Officer and my colleagues had a great Father’s Day this past Sunday. I had maybe the best Father’s Day you can imagine because I got to spend part of it with my two sons and my father. We all went out to dinner with my wife, and it was a really special day.
I come to the floor with both a light and heavy heart, light because I got to experience Father’s Day in a way I wish thousands of other people across the country could experience it. The statistics of the number of people who are killed by guns every year is pretty stunning. There are tens of thousands of people all across this country who are losing their fathers and sons, in part because the Senate doesn’t do anything to try to stem the scourge of gun violence across the country.
As the Presiding Officer knows, I try to come to the floor every week for about 10 minutes or so to try and give voice to the victims of gun violence.
Today, 24 hours having passed Father’s Day, maybe we can talk a little bit about those who have lost their fathers and their sons–little boys such as Logan Soldo.
Logan is about to turn 1. He certainly doesn’t know what happened to his father Igor, but when he is old enough, unfortunately he will hear a pretty horrific story. His father–having fled war-torn Bosnia as a 13-year-old to settle in the United States–was killed in a shooting at a Walmart, which got a lot of attention about a week or so ago.
Jared and Amanda Miller–fairly well-known radicals in the Las Vegas area–walked into a Walmart and shot Igor Soldo, a police officer, while he was eating at a restaurant.
People talked about Igor and his journey. As I mentioned, he came here from the Balkans when he was 13 years old and graduated from Southeast High School in Lincoln, NE. Following high school, he studied criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and worked part time as a corrections officer for 3 years in Lincoln where he met his wife Andrea. The couple were married in 2009. They were planning on celebrating their son’s first birthday. His birthday will be on July 7. They were going to return from Las Vegas to Lincoln to celebrate it with friends and family, but instead Igor’s family ventured and journeyed from Lincoln to Las Vegas to bid farewell to their son, who was a police officer killed in this episode of horrific violence which killed two others and eventually also led to the death of the two shooters.
One of his fellow officers, who was one of Igor’s close buddies, told the story at his funeral about how close Igor was to his son. He said, through tears, to the crowd:
I started getting pictures of Igor and Logan. I would see him with Logan over at the house and it was clear ….. our once epic romance was being replaced.
Logan Soldo will never know his dad, but there are thousands who lose their sons every year.
Over the weekend some of my colleagues might have had a chance to read an op-ed in the Washington Post written by Mark Barden and David Wheeler. Mark and David lost their sons, Daniel and Ben, in Sandy Hook. They talked about what Father’s Day has become. They said:
We know Father’s Day is meant to be a day when fathers sit back on their couches, watch sports and take it easy. But this Father’s Day, we ask you to do one thing differently. Look at your children, your beautiful, growing, pesky children who bring you so much joy and sometimes cause you so much heartache, and ask yourself–really ask yourself–this: Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe? Because the answer to that question, if we all answer honestly, clearly is no.
Of course, that is the answer here in the Senate because we have witnessed over 70 school shootings since Sandy Hook. There were 35 school shootings this year alone, and we are not even halfway through the year. There are 31,000 people a year–2,600 people a month, 86 people a day–who are killed by guns, and we do nothing.
We tried to pass a pretty simple bill that would expand the number of sales that would be subjected to a background check–supported by 80 percent of the American public–on the floor of this Senate, but because of a Republican filibuster, we could not get it to a final vote. The numbers are clearly not moving people, so hopefully the stories will, stories such as that of one particular father who has become the face, in many ways, of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Neil Heslin.
Many people have heard Mr. Heslin talk because he probably talks in the most poignant, open, soul-baring terms of any of the parents.
Twenty-four hours removed from Father’s Day–which many of us got to spend with our dads and our kids–I will leave you with the words from Neil Heslin’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:
On December 14, Jesse got up and got ready for school. He was always excited to go to school. I remember on that day we stopped by Misty Vale Deli. It’s funny the things you remember. I remember the hug he gave me when I dropped him off. He just held me, and he rubbed my back. I can still feel that hug.
And Jesse said, “It’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be okay, Dad.” Looking back it makes me wonder. What did he know? Did he have some idea about what was going to happen? But at the time I didn’t think much of it. He was just being sweet.
He was always being sweet like that. He was the kind of kid who used to leave me voice messages where he’d sing me happy birthday even if it wasn’t my birthday. I’d ask him about it, and he’d say, “I just wanted to make you feel happy.” Half the time I felt like he was the parent and I was his son.
Taking a break from Neil’s testimony for a second, this was Neil’s only family. He was separated from his wife. Neil has been unemployed, bopping between different housing situations. His entire family–his entire life–was his son Jesse.
Neil went on to say:
Jesse just had this idea that you never leave people hurt. If you can help somebody, you do it. If you can make somebody feel better, you do it. If you can leave somebody a little better off, you do it.
They tell me that’s how he died.
When he heard the shooting–at Sandy Hook Elementary School that day–he didn’t run and hide. He started yelling. People disagree on the last thing he said. One person who was there said he yelled “run.” Another person said he told everybody to “run now.”
What I know is that Jesse wasn’t shot in the back. He took two bullets. The first one grazed off the side of his head, but that didn’t stop him from yelling. The other hit him in the forehead. Both bullets were fired from the front.
I hate to say it but even when you know your community has been hit, you hope and pray it wasn’t your boy. They had us all to go to a fire station to wait and see if our kids would make it out of the school. By 3:30, maybe 4 o’clock, they told us there were no more survivors. I should have realized. They’d basically told me my son was dead, but I waited. I told the people what to look for, what he’d been wearing that day. He had this striped shirt and Carhartt jacket, and these pants that fit him in September, but then he hit a growth spurt. I gave the description and I waited some more. I waited and I hoped, until 1:30 in the morning. That’s when they told me he wasn’t coming.
Breaking away from his testimony again for a second, I was at that fire house, and I will never forget the scene of Neil Heslin sitting by himself hour after hour.
Returning to his testimony, he concludes by saying:
Before he died, Jesse and I used to talk about maybe coming to Washington some day. He wanted to go to the Washington Monument. When he talked about it last year, Jesse asked if we could come and meet the President.
I said earlier that I can be a little cynical about politicians. But Jesse believed in you.
This is Neil talking to us.
He learned about you in school and he believed in you. I want to believe in you, too. I know you can’t give me Jesse back. Believe me, if I thought you could I’d be asking you for that. But I want to believe that you will think about what I told you here today. I want to believe you’ll think about it and then you’ll do something about it, whatever you can do to make sure no other father has to see what I’ve seen.
Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I note the absence of a quorum”, said Murphy.
Source: congressional Record http://thomas.loc.gov/