We see it on our TVs every day. Random shootings, innocent lives lost, families shattered. Here in Illinois it feels like an epidemic. And nationally, more 33 people die every day due to gun violence.
In just the past two years, the tragedies in Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown shocked us to our cores. These mass shootings blind us with grief and pain, but they also open our eyes to the tragedies—the less publicized ones—that occur each and every day, from big city streets to small town homes.
More often than not, the localized instances of violence don’t command the attention of the nation, but once in a while one does.
Hadiya Pendleton was an honor student, and as a majorette in the band, she performed at the President’s inauguration. Hers was a life full of promise and hope. She would make a difference in this world because she was determined to. But Hadiya’s life was tragically cut short on a rainy January afternoon.
Cleopatra Cowley, Hadiya’s mother, said what we all felt in our hearts: no parent should ever have to experience this. No parent should ever experience the pain of burying a child.
Joining a number of my colleagues seeking to highlight the importance of addressing gun violence, I chose to invite Cleopatra to the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. I was so pleased that she and Hadiya's father, Nate, had the chance to sit beside First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech.
Cleopatra is a powerful and heartbreaking new voice joining a chorus calling for common sense action to reduce these senseless acts. She should be an inspiration to us all as we work to sensibly reduce the gun violence in our communities.
And while I know no matter what we do that we can’t completely prevent these tragedies from ever occurring, we do have the opportunity to save lives.
I heard it during the gun violence roundtable I hosted last month, and I continue to hear it every day: Congress must act now because we all have a responsibility to seize this moment and make a difference.
We need to implement universal background checks—a smart step that more than 90 percent of Americans support.
We need to finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.
We need to expand access to mental-health treatment.
We need to limit access to large capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons.
We need act for Hadiya and the countless other young people whose lives are abruptly ended in senseless acts of gun violence. We need to act for those killed in Newtown, in Aurora, in Oak Creek, in Tucson. We need to act for the 33 we lose each and every day to gun violence.
This is the moment. This is our time. Let's get to work.