NEWTOWN SPEECH

Remarks by the President at Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil


Newtown High School

Newtown, Connecticut

8:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Governor.  To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests -- Scripture tells us:  “…do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away…inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

We gather here in memory of twenty beautiful children and six remarkable adults.  They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school; in a quiet town full of good and decent people that could be any town in America.

Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.  I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.  I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world too has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight.  And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide; whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it.  Newtown -- you are not alone.

As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice.  We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch, they did not hesitate.  Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy -- they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances -- with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.

We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms, and kept steady through it all, and reassured their students by saying “wait for the good guys, they’re coming”; “show me your smile.” 

And we know that good guys came.  The first responders who raced to the scene, helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety, and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and trauma because they had a job to do, and others needed them more.

And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren, helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do; one child even trying to encourage a grown-up by saying, “I know karate.  So it’s okay.  I’ll lead the way out.”  (Laughter.)

As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown.  In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another.  This is how Newtown will be remembered.  And with time, and God’s grace, that love will see you through.

But we, as a nation, we are left with some hard questions.  Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.  With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves -- our child -- is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice.  And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm.  And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t -- that we can’t always be there for them.  They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments.  And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. 

And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.  It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize, no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself.  That this job of keeping our children safe, and teaching them well, is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.  And in that way, we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours; that we’re all parents; that they’re all our children. 

This is our first task -- caring for our children.  It’s our first job.  If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right.  That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.

And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations?  Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm?  Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return?  Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no.  We’re not doing enough.  And we will have to change.

Since I’ve been President, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting.  The fourth time we’ve hugged survivors.  The fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.  And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims, many of them children, in small towns and big cities all across America -- victims whose -- much of the time, their only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.  Surely, we can do better than this.  If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try. 

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens -- from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators -- in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?  We can’t accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

All the world’s religions -- so many of them represented here today -- start with a simple question:  Why are we here?  What gives our life meaning?  What gives our acts purpose?  We know our time on this Earth is fleeting.  We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain; that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame, or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped.  We know that no matter how good our intentions, we will all stumble sometimes, in some way.  We will make mistakes, we will experience hardships.  And even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans. 

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have -- for our children, for our families, for each other.  The warmth of a small child’s embrace -- that is true.  The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves, and binds us to something larger -- we know that’s what matters.  We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness.  We don’t go wrong when we do that. 

That’s what we can be sure of.  And that’s what you, the people of Newtown, have reminded us.  That’s how you’ve inspired us.  You remind us what matters.  And that’s what should drive us forward in everything we do, for as long as God sees fit to keep us on this Earth.

“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said, “and do not hinder them -- for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Charlotte.  Daniel.  Olivia.  Josephine.  Ana.  Dylan.  Madeleine.  Catherine.  Chase.  Jesse.  James.  Grace.  Emilie.  Jack.  Noah.  Caroline.  Jessica.  Benjamin.  Avielle.  Allison. 

God has called them all home.  For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place.  May He grace those we still have with His holy comfort.  And may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.  (Applause.)

                         END                 8:55 P.M. EST 

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thank you everybody please please have a

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seat

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good afternoon everybody let me begin by

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thanking our Vice President Joe Biden

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for your dedication Joe to this issue

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for bringing so many different voices to

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the table because while reducing gun

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violence is a complicated challenge

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protecting our children from harm

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shouldn't be a divisive one over the

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month since the tragedy in Newtown we've

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heard from so many and obviously none

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have affected us more than the families

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of those gorgeous children and their

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teachers and guardians who who were lost

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and so are grateful to all of you for

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taking the time to be here and

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recognizing that we honor their memories

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in part by doing everything we can to

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prevent this from happening again but we

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also heard from someone it's unexpected

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people in particular i started getting a

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lot of letters from kits for here today

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grant Fritz Julius Stokes in a xeon and

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tasia good they're pretty representative

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of some of the messages that i got these

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are some pretty smart letters from some

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pretty smart down heat in a third-grader

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you going to wait and as you

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in a road I feel terrible for the

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parents terrible for the parents who

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lost their children i love my contact

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and I want everybody to be happy and

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safe and then grant

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brand said I think there should be some

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changes we should learn from what

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happened at Sandy Hook I feel really bad

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and julia said Julia I'm not scared for

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my safety

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I'm scared for others I have four

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brothers and sisters and I know I would

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not be able to bear the thought of

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losing any of them

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these are kids this is what they're

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thinking of that and so what we should

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be thinking that is our responsibility

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to care for them and shield them from

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harm and give them the tools they need

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to grow up and do everything that

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they're capable of doing not just to

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pursue their own dreams but to help with

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this country this is our first task as a

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society meeting our children safe

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this is how we will be touched their

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voices should compel us to change and

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that's why last one is yours to lead i

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have heard along with members of my

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cabinet to come up with some concrete

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steps we can take right now to keep our

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children safe to help prevent mass

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shootings to reduce the broader epidemic

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of gun violence in this after and we

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can't put this off any longer

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just last Thursday as TV networks for

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recovering one of those meetings on this

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topic news broke of another school

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shooting this one in California in the

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month since 20 freshest shoulder and six

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women with jose task force and in the

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days ahead i tend to use whatever weight

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this office holes to make them a reality

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because longer is no longer set of laws

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that can prevent every senseless

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active violence completely little piece

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of legislation that will prevent every

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tragedy react to evil if there's even

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one thing we can do to reduce the

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spirals and if there's even one life

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activity saved we have an obligation to

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try and i'm going to do my part as soon

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as I'm finished speaking here sit at

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that desk and I will sign a directive

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giving law enforcement schools mental

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health professionals and the public

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health community some of the tools they

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need to help reduce the miles we will

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make it easier to eat the guns out of

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the hands of criminals by strengthening

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the background check system we will help

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schools higher or resource officers say

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they want them and develop emergency

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preparedness place we will make sure

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mental health professionals and other

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options reporting threats of violence

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even as we acknowledge that someone with

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a mental illness is far more likely be a

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victim of violent crime that in the

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perpetrator and while year after year

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those who oppose even modest gun safety

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measures have threatened to leave on

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scientific or medical research into the

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causes of gun violence i will direct the

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Centers for Disease Control to go ahead

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and study the best ways to reduce it

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Congress should fund research in the

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effects that violent video games have on

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young minds we don't benefit from

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ignorance they don't benefit from not

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knowing the science of this act epidemic

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of miles

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these are a few of the 23 executive

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actions that i'm announcing today but as

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important as these steps are they are in

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no way substitute for action from

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members of Congress to make a real and

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lasting difference

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Congress must act congress on the Saxon

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and i'm calling on Congress to have some

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very specific proposals right away

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first it's time for Congress for

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requiring a universal background check

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for anyone trying to buy it

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the law already requires licensed gun

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dealers run background checks over the

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last 14 years that's kept 1.5 million to

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the wrong people getting their hands on

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a gun but it's hard to enforce that law

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when as many as forty percent of all gun

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purchases are going i did without a

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background check

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that's not safe

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that's not smart it's not there to

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responsible gun buyers or sellers if you

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want to buy a gun

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whether it's from a licensed dealer or a

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private seller you should at least have

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to show you are not a felon or somebody

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legally prohibited from buying this is

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common sense and an overwhelming

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majority of Americans that we read with

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us

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I'm gonna need your universal background

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checks including more than seventy

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percent of the National Rifle

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Association members according to one

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survey so there's no reason we can't do

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this second Congress is a story ban on

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military-style assault weapons and a

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10-round limit magazine

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the type of assault rifle used in aurora

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for example when area with high-capacity

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magazines as one person to compounds and

8:04

many lives as possible as quickly as

8:06

possible to do as much damage using

8:10

bullets often society liked maximum

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damage and that's what allow government

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Aurora shoot 70 people 70 people killing

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12 in a matter of minutes the buttons is

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designed for the theater of war have no

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place in a movie theater majority of

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americans agree with the summits and by

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the way so did Ronald Reagan one of the

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staunchest defenders of the Second

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Amendment who wrote Congress in 1994

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urging that this is ronald reagan speak

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urging them to listen to the American

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public intentional law enforcement

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community and support a ban on the river

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manufacturing military-style assault

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what's

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Congress needs to help rather than

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hinder enforcement that's its job

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we should get tougher own people buy

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guns with you the expression vs turning

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around and selling them for criminals

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should severely punish anybody know

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helps them going to do this since his

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customers hasn't confirmed director of

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bureau of alcohol tobacco and firearms

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in six years they should confirm todd

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Jones maybe who has been acting and i

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was nominated for a toast

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and at a time when budget cuts are

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forcing many communities to reduce the

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release of course we should put more

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cotton bag on a job and then back on our

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streets

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let me be absolutely clear like most

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Americans believe Second Amendment

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guarantees an individual right to bear

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arms

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I respect our strong addition gun

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ownership and animal rights and hundreds

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more sportsman there are millions of

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responsible law-abiding gun owners of

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america who shall perish the right to

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bear arms for hunting or support for

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protection or collection

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I only believes most gun owners agree

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that we can respect the Second Amendment

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welcome keeping an irresponsible

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law-breaking view from the flipped our

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money and massive scale i believe most

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of three that if America work harder to

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keep guns out of the hands dangerous

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people there would be fewer a

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trance-like the one that could occur in

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Newtown that's what these reforms are

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designed to do for common-sense measures

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that they have to support of the

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majority of the American people and yet

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that doesn't mean any of this is going

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to be easy to an act or implement if it

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were we'd already have universal

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background checks the ban on assault

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weapons and high-capacity magazines

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never would have been allowed to expire

11:11

more horrible fellow Americans might

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still be alive celebrating birthdays and

11:18

anniversaries graduations this is going

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to be difficult

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there will be pundits politicians and

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special-interest obvious publicly

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warning of a radical all-out assault on

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Liberty not because that's true but

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because they want to want to generate

11:41

fear or higher ratings or other revenue

11:43

for themselves and behind-the-scenes

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they'll do everything they can to block

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any common-sense reform make sure that

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nothing changes whatsoever

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the only way we will be able to

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changes is if their audience their their

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constituents their membership since is

12:04

this timeless must be different at this

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time we must do something to protect our

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communities and our kids I want to put

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everything I've got into this one solo

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joe but I thought I tell you the only

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way we can change that the American

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people demand it and by and by the way

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that doesn't just mean from from certain

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parts of the country

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we're going to need voices in those

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areas and those congressional districts

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where the tradition of gun ownership is

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strong to speak up and they say this is

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important it can't just be the usual

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suspects

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we have to get to examine ourselves in

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our hearts and our generic ourselves

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what is what is important this visit

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will not happen unless the American we

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have demanded if parents he teachers

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police officers and pastors if hunters

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and sportsmen responsible gun owners if

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Americans every background stand up and

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say enough we some suffering too much

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pain and caring caring too much about

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our children to allow this to continue

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then Jane change will change change will

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come

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that's what it's going to take me on the

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letter the julia rolled me she said I

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know that laws haven't asked by Congress

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but I but i'd make you try very hard

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Julie I will try very hard but she was

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right the most important or changes we

13:57

can make it depend on congressional

13:58

action they need they need to bring the

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proposals right for a vote and the

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American American people need to make

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sure that they do get them on record ask

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you mr. member of Congress if they

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supported version of the bachelor and

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chased into guns out of the wrong hands

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as nasty as they support when you

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advance on military-style assault

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weapons and high-capacity magazines and

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if they say no then why not ask the

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question what's more important doing

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doing whatever it takes to get a 8th

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grade from the gun lobby that funds from

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their campaigns or giving giving parents

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the peace of mind when they drop a child

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off for the first grade

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others to do the same we don't live in

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isolation we live in a society a

15:02

government of and By and For the People

15:04

we are responsible for each other the

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right to worship freely and safely that

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right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek

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Wisconsin the right to assemble

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peaceably that right was denied shoppers

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and Clackamas Oregon and moviegoers in

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Aurora Colorado that most fundamental

15:32

set of rights to life liberty and the

15:35

pursuit of happiness fundamental rights

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that that were denied to college

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students at virginia tech and high

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school students at Columbine and

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elementary school students in Newtown

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and kids on street corners in chicago on

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to frequent basis to tolerate all the

15:56

families have never imagined that they

15:58

lose a loved one to a bullet those

16:03

rights are at stake were responsible and

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when i visited new town last month i

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spend some private time with many of the

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families who lost their children that

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day and one was the family of grace

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McDonnell Grace's parents are here

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grace was 7 years old when she was

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struck down just gorgeous caring

16:30

joyful logo I'm told she want pink she

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loved the beach he dreamed of becoming a

16:40

painter and so just before I left Chris

16:47

her father gave me one of her paintings

16:50

and I hung it in my privates study just

16:55

off the Oval Office and every time I

16:59

look at that painting i think about

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grace and i think about the life that

17:03

she lived and the life that lay ahead of

17:06

her and most of all I think about how

17:08

when it comes to protecting the most

17:10

vulnerable among us we must act now for

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grace for the 25 other innocent children

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and devoted educators who had so much

17:21

left to give for the men and women in

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big cities and small towns who fall

17:27

victim to senseless violence each and

17:28

every day for all the Americans who are

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counting on us to keep them safe from

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harm

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let's do the right thing let's do the

17:41

right thing for them and for this

17:44

country that we love so much thank you

17:47

find these orders

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ok

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ok

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signing 23 executive actions as the East

18:24

calling them 23 separate orders that

18:27

he's giving right now that do not

18:29

require congressional authorization to

18:31

go forward I guess so that one

18:33

suggestion represents all 23 of

18:35

executive actions that he assigned guys

18:38

not getting a hog to these young kids

18:40

and wrote letters to the president to

18:42

ask him to take these kinds of actions

18:44

to do something to prevent another run

18:47

another disaster it