CJPS Committee Hold Public Hearings on LD652 “Constitutional Carry” (Concealed Weapons w/o Permit), 6 Other Firearm Bills (VIDEOS)

Posted on April 9, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The 127th Maine Legislature’s Criminal Justice & Public Safety aka “CJPS” Committee, headed by Senator Kim Rosen and Rep. Lori Lister Fowle, conducted a six plus hour long session Wednesday on the forwarding bills:

    1. LD 415, An Act To Promote the Safe Use and Sale of Firearms
    Rep. Dion of Portland (SPONSOR)

    2. LD 535, An Act To Amend the Laws Governing the Concealed Handguns Permit Application
    Rep. Dunphy of Embden

    LD 653 lead sponsor Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) discusses bill with CJPS committee

    LD 653 lead sponsor Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) discusses bill with CJPS committee

    3. LD 548, An Act To Provide a Concealed Handgun Permit for Active Military Members
    Rep. Ward of Dedham

    4. LD 600, An Act To Conform Maine Law Regarding Persons Prohibited from Possessing Firearms with Federal Law
    Rep. Pickett of Dixfield

    5. LD 652, An Act To Authorize the Carrying of Concealed Handguns without a Permit
    Sen. Brakey of Androscoggin

    6. LD 823, An Act To Upgrade the Concealed Handgun Permit Law
    Rep. Shaw of Standish

    7. LD 868, An Act To Remove Limitations on Reciprocity for Concealed Handguns Permits
    Sen. Davis of Piscataquis

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Weekly Address of President Obama: Sandy Hook Victim’s Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms

Posted on April 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    Weekly Address: Sandy Hook Victim’s Mother Calls for Commonsense Gun Responsibility Reforms

    The White House

    Remarks of Francine Wheeler
    The President’s Weekly Address

Hi. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not the President. I’m just a citizen. And as a citizen, I’m here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me.

My name is Francine Wheeler. My husband David is with me. We live in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

David and I have two sons. Our older son Nate, soon to be 10 years old, is a fourth grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our younger son, Ben, age six, was murdered in his first-grade classroom on December 14th, exactly 4 months ago this weekend.

David and I lost our beloved son, but Nate lost his best friend. On what turned out to be the last morning of his life, Ben told me, quite out of the blue, “ I still want to be an architect, Mama, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because that’s what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.”

Ben’s love of fun and his excitement at the wonders of life were unmatched His boundless energy kept him running across the soccer field long after the game was over. He couldn’t wait to get to school every morning. He sang with perfect pitch and had just played at his third piano recital. Irrepressibly bright and spirited, Ben experienced life at full tilt.

Until that morning. 20 of our children, and 6 of our educators – gone. Out of the blue.

I’ve heard people say that the tidal wave of anguish our country felt on 12/14 has receded. But not for us. To us, it feels as if it happened just yesterday. And in the four months since we lost our loved ones, thousands of other Americans have died at the end of a gun. Thousands of other families across the United States are also drowning in our grief.

Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy.

Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse for the boy who would never come home – the same firehouse that was home to Ben’s Tiger Scout Den 6. But other times, I feel Ben’s presence filling me with courage for what I have to do – for him and all the others taken from us so violently and too soon.

We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us.

When I packed for Washington on Monday, it looked like the Senate might not act at all. Then, after the President spoke in Hartford, and a dozen of us met with Senators to share our stories, more than two-thirds of the Senate voted to move forward.

But that’s only the start. They haven’t yet passed any bills that will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do.

Now is the time to act. Please join us. You can talk to your Senator, too. Or visit WhiteHouse.gov to find out how you can join the President and get involved.

Help this be the moment when real change begins. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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President Obama in CT Addresses Gun Violence Reduction (VIDEO; Transcript)

Posted on April 8, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

University of Hartford
Hartford, Connecticut

5:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Connecticut. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, thank you so much, everybody. Let me begin by thanking Nicole, and Ian, for your brave words. (Applause.) I want to thank them and all the Newtown families who have come here today, including your First Selectman, Pat Llodra. (Applause.) Nobody could be more eloquent than Nicole and the other families on this issue. And we are so grateful for their courage and willingness to share their stories again and again, understanding that nothing is going to be more important in making sure the Congress moves forward this week than hearing from them.

I want to thank all the educators from Sandy Hook Elementary who have come here as well — (applause) — the survivors —

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: We love you, Obama!

THE PRESIDENT: I love you back. I do. (Applause.)

— the survivors who still mourn and grieve, but are still going to work every day to love and raise those precious children in their care as fiercely as ever.

I want to thank Governor Malloy for his leadership. (Applause.) Very proud of him. I want to thank the University of Hartford for hosting us this afternoon. (Applause.) Thank you, Hawks. (Applause.) And I want to thank the people of Connecticut for everything you’ve done to honor the memories of the victims — (applause) — because you’re part of their family as well.

One of your recent alumni, Rachel D’Avino, was a behavioral therapist at Sandy Hook. Two alumni of your performing arts school, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, lost their daughter, Ana — an incredible, vibrant young girl who looked up to them, and learned from them, and inherited their talents by singing before she could talk.

So every family in this state was shaken by the tragedy of that morning. Every family in this country was shaken. We hugged our kids more tightly. We asked what could we do, as a society, to help prevent a tragedy like that from happening again.

And as a society, we decided that we have to change. We must. We must change. (Applause.)

I noticed that Nicole and others refer to that day as “12/14.” For these families, it was a day that changed everything. And I know many of you in Newtown wondered if the rest of us would live up to the promise we made in those dark days — if we’d change, too; or if once the television trucks left, once the candles flickered out, once the teddy bears were carefully gathered up, that the country would somehow move on to other things.

Over the weekend, I heard Francine Wheeler, who lost her son Ben that day, say that the four months since the tragedy might feel like a brief moment for some, but for her, it feels like it’s been years since she saw Ben. And she’s determined not to let what happened that day just fade away. “We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We are here. And we are going to be here.” And I know that she speaks for everybody in Newtown, everybody who was impacted.

obama determinedAnd, Newtown, we want you to know that we’re here with you. We will not walk away from the promises we’ve made. (Applause.) We are as determined as ever to do what must be done. In fact, I’m here to ask you to help me show that we can get it done. We’re not forgetting. (Applause.)

We can’t forget. Your families still grieve in ways most of us can’t comprehend. But so many of you have used that grief to make a difference — not just to honor your own children, but to protect the lives of all of our children. So many of you have mobilized, and organized, and petitioned your elected officials “with love and logic,” as Nicole put it — as citizens determined to right something gone wrong.

And last week, here in Connecticut, your elected leaders responded. The Connecticut legislature, led by many of the legislators here today, passed new measures to protect more of our children and our communities from gun violence. And Governor Malloy signed that legislation into law. (Applause.)

So I want to be clear. You, the families of Newtown, people across Connecticut, you helped make that happen. Your voices, your determination made that happen. Obviously, the elected leaders did an extraordinary job moving it forward, but it couldn’t have happened if they weren’t hearing from people in their respective districts, people all across the state. That’s the power of your voice.

And, by the way, Connecticut is not alone. In the past few months, New York, Colorado, Maryland have all passed new, common-sense gun safety reforms as well. (Applause.)

These are all states that share an awful familiarity with gun violence, whether it’s the horror of mass killings, or the street crime that’s too common in too many neighborhoods. All of these states also share a strong tradition of hunting, and sport shooting, and gun ownership. It’s been a part of the fabric of people’s lives for generations. And every single one of those states — including here in Connecticut — decided that, yes, we can protect more of our citizens from gun violence while still protecting our Second Amendment rights. Those two things don’t contradict each other. (Applause.) We can pass common-sense laws that protect our kids and protect our rights.

So Connecticut has shown the way. And now is the time for Congress to do the same. (Applause.) Now is the time for Congress to do the same. This week is the time for Congress to do the same. (Applause.)

obama hartfordNow, back in January, just a few months after the tragedy in Newtown, I announced a series of executive actions to reduce gun violence and keep our kids safe. And I put forward common-sense proposals — much like those that passed here in Connecticut — for Congress to consider. And you’ll remember in my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to give those proposals a vote. And that moment is now.

As soon as this week, Congress will begin debating these common-sense proposals to reduce gun violence. Your senators, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy — they’re here — (applause) — your Representatives, John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Esty, Jim Hines, Joe Courtney, they are all pushing to pass this legislation. (Applause.) But much of Congress is going to only act if they hear from you, the American people. So here’s what we have to do.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. (Laughter.) Here’s what we’ve got to do. We have to tell Congress it’s time to require a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun so that people who are dangerous to themselves and others cannot get their hands on a gun. Let’s make that happen. (Applause.)

We have to tell Congress it’s time to crack down on gun trafficking so that folks will think twice before buying a gun as part of a scheme to arm someone who won’t pass a background check. Let’s get that done. (Applause.)

We have to tell Congress it’s time to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines, to make it harder for a gunman to fire 154 bullets into his victims in less than five minutes. Let’s put that to a vote. (Applause.)

We have to tell Congress it’s time to strengthen school safety and help people struggling with mental health problems get the treatment they need before it’s too late. Let’s do that for our kids and for our communities. (Applause.)

Now, I know that some of these proposals inspire more debate than others, but each of them has the support of the majority of the American people. All of them are common sense. All of them deserve a vote. All of them deserve a vote. (Applause.)

Consider background checks. Over the past 20 years, background checks have kept more than 2 million dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun. A group of police officers in Colorado told me last week that, thanks to background checks, they’ve been able to stop convicted murderers, folks under restraining orders for committing violent domestic abuse from buying a gun. In some cases, they’ve actually arrested the person as they were coming to purchase the gun.

So we know that background checks can work. But the problem is loopholes in the current law let so many people avoid background checks altogether. That’s not safe. It doesn’t make sense. If you’re a law-abiding citizen and you go through a background check to buy a gun, wouldn’t you expect other people to play by the same rules? (Applause.)

If you’re a law-abiding gun seller, wouldn’t you want to know you’re not selling your gun to someone who’s likely to commit a crime? (Applause.) Shouldn’t we make it harder, not easier for somebody who is convicted of domestic abuse to get his hands on a gun? (Applause.)

It turns out 90 percent of Americans think so. Ninety percent of Americans support universal background checks. Think about that. How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything? (Laughter.) And yet, 90 percent agree on this — Republicans, Democrats, folks who own guns, folks who don’t own guns; 80 percent of Republicans, more than 80 percent of gun owners, more than 70 percent of NRA households. It is common sense.

And yet, there is only one thing that can stand in the way of change that just about everybody agrees on, and that’s politics in Washington. You would think that with those numbers Congress would rush to make this happen. That’s what you would think. (Applause.) If our democracy is working the way it’s supposed to, and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy you’d think this would not be a heavy lift.

And yet, some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote “no” on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.

AUDIENCE: Booo —

THE PRESIDENT: That is not right.

AUDIENCE: We want a vote!

THE PRESIDENT: We need a vote.

AUDIENCE: We want a vote! We want a vote!

THE PRESIDENT: We need a vote.

AUDIENCE: We want a vote!

Obama Travels To Connecticut To Advocate Passing Of Stricter Gun LawsTHE PRESIDENT: Now, I’ve also heard some in the Washington press suggest that what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will either be a political victory or defeat for me. Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. (Applause.)

It’s about them and all the families going forward, so we can prevent this from happening again. That’s what it’s about. It’s about the law enforcement officials putting their lives at risk. That’s what this is about. This is not about politics. (Applause.) This is not about politics.

This is about these families and families all across the country who are saying let’s make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down.

When I said in my State of the Union address that these proposals deserve a vote — that families of Newtown, and Aurora, and Tucson, and a former member of Congress, Gabby Giffords, that they all deserved a vote -– virtually every member of that chamber stood up and applauded. And now they’re going to start denying your families a vote when the cameras are off and when the lobbyists have worked what they do? You deserve better than that. You deserve a vote.

Now, look, we knew from the beginning of this debate that change would not be easy. We knew that there would be powerful interests that are very good at confusing the subject, that are good at amplifying conflict and extremes, that are good at drowning out rational debate, good at ginning up irrational fears, all of which stands in the way of progress.

But if our history teaches us anything, then it’s up to us –- the people -– to stand up to those who say we can’t, or we won’t; stand up for the change that we need. And I believe that that’s what the American people are looking for.

When I first ran for this office, I said that I did not believe the country was as divided as our politics would suggest, and I still believe that. (Applause.) I know sometimes, when you watch cable news or talk radio, or you browse the Internet, you’d think, man, everybody just hates each other, everybody is just at each other’s throats. But that’s not how most Americans think about these issues. There are good people on both sides of every issue.

So if we’re going to move forward, we can’t just talk past one another. We’ve got to listen to one another. That’s what Governor Malloy and all these legislative leaders did. That’s why they were able to pass bipartisan legislation. (Applause.)

I’ve got stacks of letters from gun owners who want me to know that they care passionately about their right to bear arms, don’t want them infringed upon, and I appreciate every one of those letters. I’ve learned from them. But a lot of those letters, what they’ve also said is they’re not just gun owners; they’re also parents or police officers or veterans, and they agree that we can’t stand by and keep letting these tragedies happen; that with our rights come some responsibilities and obligations to our communities and ourselves, and most of all to our children. We can’t just think about “us” –- we’ve got to think about “we, the people.”

I was in Colorado. I told a story about Michelle. She came back from a trip to rural Iowa; we were out there campaigning. Sometimes it would be miles between farms, let alone towns. And she said, you know, coming back, I can understand why somebody would want a gun for protection. If somebody drove up into the driveway and, Barack, you weren’t home, the sheriff lived miles away, I might want that security. So she can understand what it might be like in terms of somebody wanting that kind of security.

On the other hand, I also talked to a hunter last week who said, all my experiences with guns have been positive, but I also realize that for others, all their experiences with guns have been negative.

And when he said that, I thought about the mom I met from suburban Chicago whose son was killed in a random shooting. And this mom told me, I hate it when people tell me that my son was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was on his way to school. He was exactly where he was supposed to be. He was in the right place at the right time, and he still got shot. (Applause.)

The kids at Sandy Hook were where they were supposed to be. So were those moviegoers in Aurora. So were those worshippers in Oak Creek. So was Gabby Giffords. She was at a supermarket, listening to the concerns of her constituents. (Applause.) They were exactly where they were supposed to be. They were also exercising their rights — to assemble peaceably; to worship freely and safely. They were exercising the rights of life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So surely, we can reconcile those two things. Surely, America doesn’t have to be divided between rural and urban, and Democrat and Republican when it comes to something like this.

hugIf you’re an American who wants to do something to prevent more families from knowing the immeasurable anguish that these families here have known, then we have to act. Now is the time to get engaged. Now is the time to get involved. Now is the time to push back on fear, and frustration, and misinformation. Now is the time for everybody to make their voices heard from every state house to the corridors of Congress.

And I’m asking everyone listening today, find out where your member of Congress stands on this. If they’re not part of the 90 percent of Americans who agree on background checks, then ask them, why not? Why wouldn’t you want to make it easier for law enforcement to do their job? Why wouldn’t you want to make it harder for a dangerous person to get his or her hands on a gun? What’s more important to you: our children, or an A-grade from the gun lobby? (Applause.)

I’ve heard Nicole talk about what her life has been like since Dylan was taken from her in December. And one thing she said struck me. She said, “Every night, I beg for him to come to me in my dreams so that I can see him again. And during the day, I just focus on what I need to do to honor him and make change.” Now, if Nicole can summon the courage to do that, how can the rest of us do any less? (Applause.) How can we do any less?

If there is even one thing we can do to protect our kids, don’t we have an obligation to try? If there is even one step we can take to keep somebody from murdering dozens of innocents in the span of minutes, shouldn’t we be taking that step? (Applause.) If there is just one thing we can do to keep one father from having to bury his child, isn’t that worth fighting for?

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had tough days in the presidency — I’ve said this before. The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency. But I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that will be a tough day for me, too. (Applause.) Because we’ve got to expect more from ourselves, and we’ve got to expect more from Congress. We’ve got to believe that every once in a while, we set politics aside and we just do what’s right. (Applause.) We’ve got to believe that.

And if you believe that, I’m asking you to stand up. (Applause.) If you believe in the right to bears arms, like I do, but think we should prevent an irresponsible few from inflicting harm — stand up. Stand up. (Applause.)

If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and the thousands of Americans who have been gunned down in the last four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up. (Applause.)

If you want the people you send to Washington to have just an iota of the courage that the educators at Sandy Hook showed when danger arrived on their doorstep, then we’re all going to have to stand up.

And if we do, if we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together, I’m convinced cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children. (Applause.)

So let’s do the right thing. Let’s do right by our kids. Let’s do right by these families. Let’s get this done. Connecticut, thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END 6:13 P.M. EDT

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Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan) Speaks to Co-Sponsored Emergency Bill, LD 576

Posted on February 19, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Link here to LD 576, An Act to “Resolve, To Protect Concealed Handgun Permit Information on a Temporary Basis”, sponsored by Asst Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson, Asst House Majority Leader Representative Jeff McCabe, Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Asst House Minority Leader Alex Willette.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Men and women of the house, I rise today in support of the… uh… pending measure.

I am glad that Democrats and Republicans could come together to provide some breathing room around this highly sensitive issue and provide this temporary shield and I personally feel that this will allow us to informatively and carefully evaluate this complex matter.

I think this measure deserves all of our support.

Thank you very much.”

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Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) Addresses House on Emergency Bill, LD 576

Posted on February 19, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Link here to LD 576, An Act to “Resolve, To Protect Concealed Handgun Permit Information on a Temporary Basis”, sponsored by Asst Majority Leader Senator Troy Jackson, Asst House Majority Leader Representative Jeff McCabe, Minority Leader Senator Mike Thibodeau, House Minority Leader Ken Fredette and Asst House Minority Leader Alex Willette.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen of the House,

I would like to point out for the record that we are voting on a bill today that would limit the public’s right to know- and we are doing so, without a public hearing.

This is a bad public process precisely because there has not been a public process.

I also wanted an opportunity to allow the public to weigh in on this, and as Representative Brooks stated, it is the part I staunchly oppose.

I will vote for the 60 days today, but I’d like the record to show that this is not a good process.

We are much better than this.”

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ME Majority Leadership Weekly Media Availability Press Conference

Posted on January 17, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The first of a weekly “open topic” media availability opportunity for all press to meet with members of the Maine Democratic Majority Leadership from both chambers. Conferences also include call-in capabilities, for those members of the press unable to attend in person. This was recorded yesterday afternoon in President Alfond’s office.

Topics included:

  • President Obama’s gun control initiatives
  • Governor LePage’s 900 page proposed budget, with focus on the selling of liquor contracts to help assuage the ourstanding hospitals debts, tax increases and direct impact upon Maine’s middle class families
  • Revenue sharing cessation from the state to municipalities, with questions regarding the reactions from rural Maine communities

    From left to right: House Majority Leader Seth Berry (Bowdoinham), Senate President Justin Alfond (Portland), Speaker of the House Mark Eves (North Berwick) and Asst House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe (Skowhegan).

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  • Weekly Democratic Address of Senator Colleen Lachowicz (Kennebec): Coming Together After Newtown CT Tragedy

    Posted on December 22, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

    Audio link here.

    colleenGood Morning. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville.

    There are events that happen in our lives, in our communities, and in our world that forever change us. And often, as a result, dates become emblazoned in our memory. Words take on new meanings. Conversations shift. And, often communities come together—unifying around our collective experience—our shared emotion.

    Last week, America experienced one of our biggest tragedies with the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

    The actions of last week were senseless. Incomprehensible. Perhaps leaving all of us with more questions than answers.

    But, even in the wake of this tragedy, there are some who will try to divide us by politics. As lawmakers we cannot allow it because that will not heal our communities or make our children any safer.

    There is no simple answer. But it is our duty to strengthen our resolve. First, by understanding and then, by addressing the real factors that led to this tragedy. To solve the problem, we have to know what the problem is.

    We must slow down. Listen to each other. Collectively we have the wisdom—from law enforcement to educators, mental health providers and family members.

    As a school social worker, I have seen tragedy. I work with children every day who have encountered trauma. And as I tell them, I will say to all of us: We cannot let this horrible event define us. But, it must define how we act.

    There was not a parent in this state who didn’t hug their child a little longer after Newtown. This week I worked in two schools. I cannot look those children, parents and teachers in the eye without knowing we, as lawmakers, will do everything in our power to take their right to be safe into consideration. We have a duty—a duty to the parents and children of this state to reassure them we are doing everything in our power to keep our children and schools safe. Governor LePage and his administration have done the right thing by calling for a review of safety protocols in Maine’s schools.

    But we can’t stop there.

    As we continue to process and understand what transpired in Newtown on that fateful day, we must look ahead and ask, what can be different? As a culture, a state, a community, a school, a family.

    No matter the viewpoint, we all need to talk with each other respectfully—even when we disagree. We’re in this together. It is true that we will need to examine our existing laws and practices with regard to gun safety. But we need to also do this without demonizing gun owners. It is true we need to look at our mental health system. But we need to do this without stigmatizing mental illness. These are tough issues.

    Now is not the time to blame. But it is time to take a deep breath and ask, What’s next?

    We are days away from the Christmas holiday. And as we prepare to celebrate with our own families, let’s remember the heroes of last week. The teachers who stand on the front lines each day educating our children—and most critically, on that day, the selfless act of protecting the lives of children. And to the dozens of first-responders. We must be proud of them—because they make us remember what is right in our world. And, to the dozens of acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from people across our nation who buoyed a community in a time of darkness.

    Thank you for listening. This is State Senator Colleen Lachowicz from Waterville. Have a good weekend—and a Happy Holiday.

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    President Obama: “Words Need to Lead to Action” on Gun Violence; Answers Questions of Fiscal Cliff Talks (Video; Text)

    Posted on December 19, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    12:02 P.M. EST

    THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. It’s now been five days since the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut; three days since we gathered as a nation to pray for the victims. And today, a few more of the 20 small children and six educators who were taken from us will be laid to rest.

    We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened. We do know that every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society. And if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation — all of us — to try.

    Over these past five days, a discussion has reemerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day. And it’s encouraging that people of all different backgrounds and beliefs and political persuasions have been willing to challenge some old assumptions and change longstanding positions.

    That conversation has to continue. But this time, the words need to lead to action.

    We know this is a complex issue that stirs deeply held passions and political divides. And as I said on Sunday night, there’s no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun. We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence. And any actions we must take must begin inside the home and inside our hearts.

    But the fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing. The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence, and prevent the very worst violence.

    That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to lead an effort that includes members of my Cabinet and outside organizations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January — proposals that I then intend to push without delay. This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now. I asked Joe to lead this effort in part because he wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in this country. That plan — that bill also included the assault weapons ban that was publicly supported at the time by former Presidents including Ronald Reagan.

    The good news is there’s already a growing consensus for us to build from. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.

    I urge the new Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner. And considering Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in six years — the agency that works most closely with state and local law enforcement to keep illegal guns out of the hands of criminals — I’d suggest that they make this a priority early in the year.

    Look, like the majority of Americans, I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. This country has a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s been handed down from generation to generation. Obviously across the country there are regional differences. There are differences between how people feel in urban areas and rural areas. And the fact is the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible — they buy their guns legally and they use them safely, whether for hunting or sport shooting, collection or protection.

    But you know what, I am also betting that the majority — the vast majority — of responsible, law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war. I’m willing to bet that they don’t think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas — that an unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to get his hands on a military-style assault rifle so easily; that in this age of technology, we should be able to check someone’s criminal records before he or she can check out at a gun show; that if we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown — or any of the lesser-known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day.

    Since Friday morning, a police officer was gunned down in Memphis, leaving four children without their mother. Two officers were killed outside a grocery store in Topeka. A woman was shot and killed inside a Las Vegas casino. Three people were shot inside an Alabama hospital. A four-year-old was caught in a drive-by in Missouri, and taken off life support just yesterday. Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year — violence that we cannot accept as routine.

    So I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. We won’t prevent them all — but that can’t be an excuse not to try. It won’t be easy — but that can’t be an excuse not to try.

    And I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Ultimately if this effort is to succeed it’s going to require the help of the American people — it’s going to require all of you. If we’re going to change things, it’s going to take a wave of Americans — mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, pastors, law enforcement, mental health professionals — and, yes, gun owners — standing up and saying “enough” on behalf of our kids.

    It will take commitment and compromise, and most of all, it will take courage. But if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday — if cooperation and common sense prevail — then I’m convinced we can make a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.

    Thank you. And now I’m going to let the Vice President go and I’m going to take a few questions. And I will start with Ben Feller.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. I’d like to ask you about the other serious issue consuming this town right now, the fiscal cliff.

    THE PRESIDENT: Right.

    Q Haven’t you betrayed some of the voters who supported you in the election by changing your positions on who should get a tax increase and by including Social Security benefits now in this mix? And more broadly, there seems to be a deepening sense that negotiations aren’t going very well right now. Can you give us a candid update? Are we likely to go over the cliff?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, there’s no reason why we should. Remember what I said during the campaign. I thought that it was important for us to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way. I said it was important for us to make sure that millionaires and billionaires paid their fair share. I said that we were going to have to make some tough cuts, some tough decisions on the spending side, but what I wouldn’t do was hurt vulnerable families only to pay for a tax cut for somebody like me. And what I said was that the ultimate package would involve a balance of spending cuts and tax increases.

    That’s exactly what I’ve put forward. What I’ve said is, is that in order to arrive at a compromise, I am prepared to do some very tough things — some things that some Democrats don’t want to see and probably there are a few Republicans who don’t want to see either. But the only way that we’re going to be able to stabilize the economy, make sure we’ve got a platform for long-term economic growth, that we get our deficits under control and we make sure that middle-class families are protected is if we come up with something that members of both parties in Congress can support.

    And that’s the plan that I’ve put forward. I have gone at least halfway in meeting some of the Republicans’ concerns, recognizing that even though we campaigned on these issues, even though the majority of Americans agree with me that we should be raising taxes on the wealthiest few as a means of reducing the deficit, I have also said that I’m willing to identify some spending cuts that make sense.

    And, frankly, up until about a couple of days ago, if you looked at it, the Republicans in the House and Speaker Boehner I think were in a position to say, we’ve gotten a fair deal. The fact that they haven’t taken it yet is puzzling and I think a question that you’re going to have to address to them.

    I remain optimistic, though, because if you look at what the Speaker has proposed, he’s conceded that income tax rates should go up — except right now he only wants to have them go up for millionaires. If you’re making $900,000, somehow he thinks that you can’t afford to pay a little more in taxes. But the principle that rates are going to need to go up he’s conceded.

    I’ve said I’m willing to make some cuts. What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars. The idea that we would put our economy at risk because you can’t bridge that gap doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    So I’m going to continue to talk to the Speaker and the other leaders up in Congress. But, ultimately, they’ve got to do their job. Right now their job is to make sure that middle-class taxes do not go up and that we have a balanced, responsible package of deficit reduction.

    It is there for all to see. It is a deal that can get done. But it is not going to be — it cannot be done if every side wants 100 percent. And part of what voters were looking for is some compromise up here. That’s what folks want. They understand that they’re not going to get 100 percent of what they want. And for some reason, that message has not yet taken up on Capitol Hill.

    And when you think about what we’ve gone through over the last couple of months — a devastating hurricane, and now one of the worst tragedies in our memory — the country deserves folks to be willing to compromise on behalf of the greater good, and not tangle themselves up in a whole bunch of ideological positions that don’t make much sense.

    So I remain not only open to conversations, but I remain eager to get something done. I’d like to get it done before Christmas. There’s been a lot of posturing up on Capitol Hill, instead of just going ahead and getting stuff done. And we’ve been wasting a lot of time. It is the right thing to do. I’m prepared to get it done. But they’re going to have to go ahead and make some adjustments.

    And I’ll just give you one other example. The Speaker now is proposing what he calls plan B. So he says, well, this would raise taxes only on folks making a million dollars or more. What that means is an average of a $50,000 tax break for every millionaire out there, at the same time as we’re not providing unemployment insurance for 2 million people who are still out there looking for work. It actually means a tax increase for millions of working families across the country at the same time as folks like me would be getting a tax break. That violates the core principles that were debated during the course of this election and that the American people determined was the wrong way to go.

    And so my hope is, is that the Speaker and his caucus, in conjunction with the other legislative leaders up there, can find a way to make sure that middle-class families don’t see their taxes go up on January 1st; that we make sure that those things that middle-class families count on like tax credits for college, or making sure that they’re getting some help when it comes to raising their kids through things like the child tax credit, that that gets done; and that we have a balanced package for deficit reduction, which is exactly what I’ve put forward.

    Q Will you give more ground if you need to, or are you done?

    THE PRESIDENT: If you look at the package that I put forward, it is a balanced package by any definition. We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do, in every category. And by any measure, by any traditional calculation, by the measures that Republicans themselves have used in the past, this would be as large a piece of deficit reduction as we’ve seen in the last 20 years. And if you combine that with the increased revenue from the wealthy paying a little bit more, then you actually have something that would stabilize our deficit and debt for a decade — for 10 years.

    Now, the notion that we would not do that, but instead the Speaker would run a play that keeps tax cuts for folks making $500,000 or $700,000 or $800,000 or $900,000 a year, and gives more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and raises taxes on middle-class families, and then has no cuts in it — which is what he says he wants — doesn’t make much sense.

    I mean, let’s just think about the logic for a second. They’re thinking about voting for raising taxes at least on folks over a million, which they say they don’t want to do, but they’re going to reject spending cuts that they say they do want to do. That defies logic. There’s no explanation for that.

    I think that any objective person out there looking would say that we’ve put forward a very balanced plan and it’s time for us to go ahead and get it done. That’s what the country needs right now. Because I think folks have been through some wrenching times, we’re still recovering from a very tough recession, and what they’re hoping for is a sense of stability, focus, compromise, common sense over the next couple of years. And I think we can provide it. But this is a good test for them.

    Carol Lee.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. Just to follow on Ben’s question, what is your next move? Are we in a position now where you’re just waiting for the Speaker to make a move?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to reach out to all the leaders involved over the next couple of days and find out what is it that’s holding this thing up. What is holding it up? If the argument from Republicans is we haven’t done enough spending cuts, that argument is not going to fly because we’ve got close to a trillion dollars of spending cuts. And when you add interest, then it’s more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts.

    If the argument is that they can’t do — they can’t increase tax rates on folks making $700,000 or $800,000 a year, that’s not a persuasive argument to me and it’s certainly not a persuasive argument to the American people.

    It may be that members of their caucus haven’t looked at exactly what we’ve proposed. It may be that if we provide more information or there’s greater specificity or we work through some of their concerns, that we can get some movement then.

    But the fact of the matter is, is that what would violate my commitment to voters is if I ended up agreeing to a plan that put more of the burden on middle-class families and less of a burden on the wealthy in an effort to reduce our deficit. That’s not something I’m going to do. What would violate my commitment to voters would be to put forward a plan that makes it harder for young people to go to college, that makes it harder for a family with a disabled kid to care for that kid.

    And there’s a threshold that you reach where the balance tips, even in making compromises that are required to get something done in this town, where you are hurting people in order to give another advantage to folks who don’t need help. And we had an extensive debate about this for a year. And not only does the majority of the American people agree with me, about half of Republican voters agree with me on this.

    So at some point, there’s got to be I think a recognition on the part of my Republican friends that — take the deal. They will be able to claim that they have worked with me over the last two years to reduce the deficit more than any other deficit reduction package; that we will have stabilized it for 10 years. That is a significant achievement for them. They should be proud of it. But they keep on finding ways to say no, as opposed to finding ways to say yes.

    And I don’t know how much of that just has to do with — it is very hard for them to say yes to me. But at some point, they’ve got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what’s best for the country. And if they do that — if they’re not worried about who’s winning and who’s losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn’t want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what’s good for the country, I actually think we can get this done.

    Q You mentioned the $700,000 and $800,000. Are you willing to move on income level and are there specific things that you would do —

    THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specific negotiations here. My point is simple, Carol, that if you look at Speaker Boehner’s proposal and you look at my proposal, they’re actually pretty close. They keep on saying that somehow we haven’t put forward real spending cuts. Actually, there was I think a graph in The New York Times today that showed — they’re the same categories, right? There’s a little bit of tweaks here and there; there are a few differences, but we’re right there.

    And on the revenue side, there’s a difference in terms of them wanting to preserve tax breaks for folks between $250,000 and a million that we just can’t afford. I mean, keep in mind I’m in that income category; I’d love to not pay as much in taxes. But I also think it’s the right thing to do for us to make sure that people who have less — people who are working, people who are striving, people who are hoping for their kids — that they have opportunity. That’s what we campaigned about. That’s what we talked about.

    And this is not a situation where I’m unwilling to compromise. This is not a situation where I’m trying to rub their face in anything. I think anybody who looks at this objectively would say that coming off my election, I have met them at least halfway in order to get something done for the country.

    And so I noticed that there were a couple of headlines out there saying, oh, we’re now in the land of political posturing, and it’s the usual he said-he said atmosphere. But look at the facts. Look at where we started; look at where they started. My proposal is right there in the middle.

    We should be able to get this done. Let’s get it done. We don’t have a lot of time.

    Carrie. Where’s — there you are.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President.

    THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

    Q What is your level of confidence that if you are able to reach a comprehensive deal with the Speaker, that he will be able to bring his members onboard and get it passed? Essentially, do you still trust Speaker Boehner in this process?

    THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that the Speaker has challenges in his caucus, and I recognize that. I’m often reminded when I speak to the Republican leadership that the majority of their caucus’s membership come from districts that I lost. And so sometimes they may not see an incentive in cooperating with me, in part because they’re more concerned about challenges from a tea party candidate, or challenges from the right, and cooperating with me may make them vulnerable. I recognize that.

    But, goodness, if this past week has done anything, it should just give us some perspective. If there’s one thing we should have after this week, it should be a sense of perspective about what’s important. And I would like to think that members of that caucus would say to themselves: You know what, we disagree with the President on a whole bunch of things. We wish the other guy had won. We’re going to fight him on a whole range of issues over the next four years. We think his philosophy is all screwed up. But right now, what the country needs is for us to compromise, get a deficit reduction deal in place; make sure middle class taxes don’t go up; make sure that we’re laying the foundations for growth; give certainty to businesses large and small; not put ourselves through some sort of self-inflicted crisis every six months; allow ourselves time to focus on things like preventing the tragedy in Newtown from happening again; focus on issues like energy and immigration reform and all the things that will really make a determination as to whether our country grows over the next four years, 10 years, 40 years.

    And if you just pull back from the immediate political battles, if you kind of peel off the partisan war paint, then we should be able to get something done.

    And I think the Speaker would like to get that done. I think an environment needs to be created within not just the House Republican caucus, but also among Senate Republicans that say, the campaign is over and let’s see if we can do what’s right for the country — at least for the next month. And then we can reengage in all the other battles that they’ll want to fight.

    Q If you don’t get it done, Republicans have said they’ll try to use the debt limit as a next pressure point. Would you negotiate with them in that context?

    THE PRESIDENT: No. And I’ve been very clear about this. This is the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, the world’s economic superpower. And the idea that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and every six months, or every nine months, that we threaten not to pay our bills on stuff we’ve already bought, and default, and ruin the full faith and credit of the United States of America — that’s not how you run a great country.

    So I’ve put forward a very clear principle: I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to play the same game that we saw happen in 2011 — which was hugely destructive; hurt our economy; provided more uncertainty to the business community than anything else that happened.

    And I’m not alone in this. If you go to Wall Street, including talking to a whole bunch of folks who spent a lot of money trying to beat me, they would say it would be disastrous for us to use the debt ceiling as a cudgel to try to win political points on Capitol Hill.

    So we’re not going to do that — which is why I think that part of what I hope over the next couple of days we see is a recognition that there is a way to go ahead and get what it is that you’ve been fighting for. These guys have been fighting for spending cuts. They can get some very meaningful spending cuts. This would amount to $2 trillion — $2 trillion — in spending cuts over the last couple of years. And in exchange, they’re getting a little over a trillion dollars in revenue. And that meets the pledge that I made during the campaign, which was $2 to $2.50 of spending cuts for every revenue increase. And that’s an approach that I think most Americans think is appropriate.

    But I will not negotiate around the debt ceiling. We’re not going to do that again.

    Q Sir, may I ask a question about Newtown, please?

    THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’ve got David Jackson.

    Q Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the gun issue, you alluded to the fact that Washington commissions don’t have the greatest reputation in the world. What makes you think this one is going to be different given the passage of time and the political power of gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is not going to be a commission. Joe is going to gather up some key Cabinet members who have an interest in this issue. We’re going to reach out to a bunch of stakeholders. We’re going to be reaching out to members of Congress who have an interest in this issue. It’s not as if we have to start from scratch. There are a whole bunch of proposals that have been thought about, debated, but hopefully also some new ideas in terms of how we deal with this issue.

    Their task is going to be to sift through every good idea that’s out there, and even take a look at some bad ideas before disposing of them, and come up with a concrete set of recommendations in about a month. And I would hope that our memories aren’t so short that what we saw in Newtown isn’t lingering with us, that we don’t remain passionate about it only a month later.

    And as soon as we get those recommendations, I will be putting forward very specific proposals. I will be talking about them in my State of The Union and we will be working with interested members of Congress to try to get some of them done.

    And the idea that we would say this is terrible, this is a tragedy, never again, and we don’t have the sustained attention span to be able to get this done over the next several months doesn’t make sense. I have more confidence in the American people than that. I have more confidence in the parents, the mothers and fathers that I’ve been meeting over the last several days all across the country from all political persuasions, including a lot of gun owners, who say, you know what, this time we’ve got to do things differently.

    Q What about the NRA?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, the NRA is an organization that has members who are mothers and fathers. And I would expect that they’ve been impacted by this as well. And hopefully they’ll do some self-reflection.

    And here’s what we know — that any single gun law can’t solve all these problems. We’re going to have to look at mental health issues. We’re going to have to look at schools. There are going to be a whole range of things that Joe’s group looks at. We know that issues of gun safety will be an element of it. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 15 years, is the sense that anything related to guns is somehow an encroachment on the Second Amendment. What we’re looking for here is a thoughtful approach that says we can preserve our Second Amendment, we can make sure that responsible gun owners are able to carry out their activities, but that we’re going to actually be serious about the safety side of this; that we’re going to be serious about making sure that something like Newtown or Aurora doesn’t happen again.

    And there is a big chunk of space between what the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all. And that space is what Joe is going to be working on to try to identify where we can find some common ground.

    So I’ve got — I’m going to take one last question.

    Go ahead, Jake.

    Q It seems to a lot of observers that you made the political calculation in 2008 in your first term and in 2012 not to talk about gun violence. You had your position on renewing the ban on semiautomatic rifles that then-Senator Biden put into place, but you didn’t do much about it. This is not the first issue — the first incident of horrific gun violence of your four years. Where have you been?

    THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s where I’ve been, Jake. I’ve been President of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.

    And so I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington. And as I said on Sunday, this should be a wake-up call for all of us to say that if we are not getting right the need to keep our children safe, then nothing else matters. And it’s my commitment to make sure that we do everything we can to keep our children safe.

    A lot of things go in — are involved in that, Jake. So making sure they’ve got decent health care and making sure they’ve got a good education, making sure that their parents have jobs — those are all relevant as well. Those aren’t just sort of side issues. But there’s no doubt that this has to be a central issue. And that’s exactly why I’m confident that Joe is going to take this so seriously over the next couple months.

    All right. Thank you, everybody.

    END
    12:47 P.M. EST

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    UPDATED: President Obama’s Address At Newtown CT Inter-Faith Prayer Vigil (Video; Transcript)

    Posted on December 17, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    President Obama: Thank you.

    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 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 20 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 Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, 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 are 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 their own 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 grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out.”

    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. 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. You know, 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’s 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.

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    They will 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 responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are 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’re 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 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’s 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 mass shootings, 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 in big cities all across America, victims whose — much of the time their only fault was being at 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’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s 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’ll 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.

    Personal Post
    Graphic

    Mother of shooter, Nancy Lanza, collected guns, ‘prepared for the worst’

    Peter Hermann and Michael S. Rosenwald DEC 15
    First victim of rampage collected guns, told landscaper she took son to firing range to practice his aim.
    Newtown seeks comfort in churches

    Colum Lynch 5:30 PM ET
    Reeling from Friday’s tragic slayings residents flocked to their churches Sunday.
    Will Newtown shooting be a tipping point in gun-control debate?

    Chris Cillizza 12:42 PM ET
    MONDAY FIX | The national conversation is governed by a handful of knowns and unknowns.
    Shooter’s weapon has a deadly history

    Sari Horwitz DEC 15
    Bushmaster can quickly fire multiple high-velocity rounds.
    Mass shootings across the U.S. in 2012

    The Washington Post
    GRAPHIC | Two of the deadliest massacres happened this year, but 11 others also claimed lives.

    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?

    You know, 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’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

    We’ll make mistakes, we’ll 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, Madeline, 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.

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    Weekly Address of President Obama: Nation Grieves for Those Killed in Tragic Shooting in Newtown, CT

    Posted on December 15, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

    On Friday, we learned that more than two dozen people were killed when a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

    Most of those who died were just young children with their whole lives ahead of them. And every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt.

    Among the fallen were also teachers – men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.

    So our hearts are broken today. We grieve for the families of those we lost. And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived. Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child’s innocence has been torn away far too early.

    As a nation, we have endured far too many of these tragedies in the last few years. An elementary school in Newtown. A shopping mall in Oregon. A house of worship in Wisconsin. A movie theater in Colorado. Countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia.

    Any of these neighborhoods could be our own. So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics.

    This weekend, Michelle and I are doing what I know every parent is doing – holding our children as close as we can and reminding them how much we love them.

    There are families in Connecticut who can’t do that today. And they need all of us now. Because while nothing can take the place of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need – to remind them that we are there for them; that we are praying for them; and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their own memories, but also in their community, and their country.

    Thank you.

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