Klobuchar: “The time has come. The courage must be in all of us and we must get this done.”
WASHINGTON – On the Senate floor this evening, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) urged her colleagues to honor victims of gun violence by passing common sense legislation.
In her remarks, Klobuchar read the names of gun violence victims and told stories about Minnesotans recently lost to gun violence, including Lindsay Overbay, a health care worker killed during the February shooting at the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo, MN, and Bao Yang, a nurse and victim of domestic violence.
Klobuchar also highlighted the relationship between domestic abuse and gun violence, noting that her bill to close the “boyfriend loophole” at the federal level recently passed the House with bipartisan support as a part of legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Thank you so much, Senator Murphy, for those beautiful words. And when you honor the victims as you should, you honor all victims, and what I’ve found about these crimes, particularly the crime of domestic violence, is so often the victims have been hidden from view. It’s a crime that takes place in someone’s bedroom with the door closed. It’s a crime that takes place in a house that no one ever sees. And as you know in that situation like this when there’s a gun, it becomes deadly.
And one of my memories when years ago a police officer in a small town in Minnesota responded to a domestic violence call, and what a lot of people don’t know is that oftentimes those are the most dangerous calls police officers take. And it was a victim who had called the police, very young, and it was someone who had severe mental illness problems, her boyfriend. And the police went to the door, door is answered, and the guy shot the police officer. And he was wearing a bulletproof vest but he shot him in the head. And I was at that funeral, and it’s a reminder that the crime of domestic violence isn’t just about one victim, it’s about an entire committee. And as the widow walked down the aisle of the church, she had her two little boys with her, and then she was holding this little girl in a dress covered in stars. And the last time that family had been in that church was for the nativity play that the boys were in and the dad was sitting proudly in the front row, and now they were at his funeral.
That’s what we’re talking about with gun violence and I join my colleges on the floor to honor Americans whose lives were cruelly and unjustly taken from us by gun violence.
And I’m going to read some names of people that should never be forgotten:
In Alabama—Chase Green
In Arizona—Isaias Garcia Tovar Senior, Isaias Tovar Junior, and Delia Noriega
In Connecticut—Dwaneia Turner
In Delaware—Demier Chambers
In Florida—Earnest “Bugg” Riggs Junior
In Illinois—Brenda Poss-Barnes, Greg Barnes Senior, and Daniel Kinney
In Indiana—Chanel Neal
In Kentucky—Kenya Renee Cunningham, Demontray Rhodes, and Katherine Bryan
In Missouri—Johnnie Jones
In Ohio—Alonszo Lewis
In Tennessee—Kevin Niyibizi
In Virginia—Eddie Jenkins
In Wisconsin—Kevin Kloth and Kevin Schneider
Those are just twenty names out of the thousands of people lost to gun violence every year — an average of 100 gun violence deaths each day. That’s three classrooms of children.
We also know the communities where mass shootings occur will never be the same. Atlanta, Georgia; Boulder, Colorado are now part of the ever-growing list of cities and towns forever altered but never forgotten —Midland, Odessa, Dayton, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando, Charleston, Newtown, to name a few.
And I am greatly saddened that my home state of Minnesota also has communities on that list. On average, someone is killed with a gun every 21 hours in my state. That is 422 people each year.
Tonight, I’m going to focus on the loss of two women from Minnesota, both of whom were health care workers, and both were moms.
For the past year, frontline healthcare workers protected us from the pandemic. But Lindsay Overbay and Bao Yang, we failed to protect them.
In February, Lindsay was killed in a horrible shooting at the Allina Health Clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota, where four of her co-workers were also injured. This just happened last month.
She was a medical assistant at the clinic and devoted her life to healing others. She had a wonderful laugh that would make a room spark to life. Her husband said that her laugh was so distinctive that, “If you walked into the clinic and you heard her laughing, you knew exactly who it was.”
The spark of her own life was her family—her husband of 10 years and her beloved children, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. Friends said that she “lived and breathed” her kids, that she cherished every moment spent with them.
Her field of cardiology put her in contact with older patients, whom she loved caring for because she said, “they are at an age where they say what they are thinking.”
It’s gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to think that Lindsay won’t get to that age, won’t get that happy freedom. Won’t get to see her two children grow up and graduate and have families of their own.
It has been reported that the shooter — some described as a “disgruntled patient”— had previously made threats against the clinic.
Although we don’t know whether this tragedy could have been prevented, in some way we know it could’ve been. We should be doing more to encourage states to pass common-sense laws and get passed laws right here in this body that allow family members or law enforcement to get a court order to temporarily prevent a person who is in crisis from buying a gun. By the way — Senator Murphy knows this — after Parkland I was in the White House when Donald Trump was president and I was seated across from him. I was seated next to former Vice President Pence, and I was there because of the domestic violence bill that I lead. And I still have the piece of paper where I wrote the hashtags down when Donald Trump said that he was for universal background checks, not once, not twice, not three times, multiple times. And when we talked about this very issue, the idea of getting a court order to temporarily prevent a person who is in crisis from buying a gun, something that Vice President Pence supported because of what had happened in Indiana, and they had a similar law, President Trump said that he was for it, that he was for this stuff. And then what happens? And we all know this: the next day, two days later after this meeting we had that was on TV, he met with the NRA and he backed down. We can’t keep backing down, and we know we now have a president in Joe Biden that will not back down.
So here’s another story.
Just days ago we lost another mother of two. Ms. Bao Yang of St. Paul, Minnesota. She worked hard raising her sons — ages 21 and 11 — as a single mom. She held multiple jobs while she studied to be a nurse, graduating and getting her license a few years ago.
According to her son, “All she ever wanted was to raise my little brother in the best life she could give him. I could see how much stress she carried every day, but still always managed to provide for us.”
Bao’s sister said that she was “a sweet, loving, caring, hard-working person who only wanted the best for everyone.”
But a few days ago, right around what happened in Atlanta, on Saturday morning — these stories are both completely fresh, they just happened — Saturday morning at 8:30 police were called to her house where they found that she had been shot. She died later that morning.
According to her family, she was a victim of domestic violence, turned deadly because of a gun. Her killer was her former boyfriend.
Unfortunately, her story is far too common. According to the Department of Justice, nearly half of women killed by intimate partners are killed by current or former dating partners.
Violence Free Minnesota, a statewide coalition of organizations that provide services to victims of domestic abuse, said that her homicide — she was the eighth Minnesotan to die due to domestic violence this year. There were 29 domestic violence-related deaths in Minnesota last year.
And yet, federal law does not prohibit abusive dating partners or convicted stalkers from buying a gun, which is a problem I’ve been trying to fix since I got to Washington. We had hearings on this bill. We had a hearing on this in the Judiciary Committee years ago where Republican witnesses agreed that we should close what's called the boyfriend loophole. As one of the conservative sheriffs had testified from Wisconsin said, he said that basically, “mean boyfriends shoot just as hard and hit just as hard as mean husbands.” But yet, that discrepancy exists in a number of states.
And what just happened a few weeks ago? The Violence Against Women Act passed in the House of Representatives, Senator Murphy. It passed in the House of Representatives with 29 Republican votes, and that provision is in there. That is now coming over to the U.S. Senate and it’s been one of the reasons this bill has been stalled out. I do not know how after what we have seen with the numbers of domestic violence cases, after the story I just told of a woman we just lost this weekend, how after what happened in Atlanta, we cannot acknowledge this violence against women, and in particular against women of color.
So this is one thing that we can do right now. We literally can pass that bill as we work on background checks and all of the other things that we need to do.
And I will end with this since, Senator Murphy, what happened in his state with the Sandy Hook shooting was forever etched on all of our minds and memories. It still goes down for me — when people say “what’s your best day in the Senate?” I talk about a bill I passed of maybe little note to some involving a young girl that was killed as a result of a swimming pool tragedy, and we fixed that rule about pools. And then they ask “what was the saddest day?” For me, the saddest day is when the background checks, the bipartisan background checks, went down, because those parents that Senator Murphy knows so well were in my office, and I was one of the several Senators that had to tell them that “no” even though they had the courage to come before this Senate. In particular, one woman who told me that story of waiting in the firehouse, waiting as one by one the kids would come in and pretty soon they knew that they would never see their little boy again. And how she just broke down crying, remembering the last thing she’d seen him do, which was point to the picture of the school aide on their refrigerator, and as she sat there crumpled on the floor crying, she thought of that aide and thought she’ll never leave his side. And when they found them shot in the school, that woman had her arms around that little boy and they were both shot to death. And we all had to look at those families and say “you had the courage to come forth to fight for a bill that wouldn’t have even prevented the killing of your children but you knew it was the best thing to prevent violence around the country,” and that was background checks, but the Senate did not have the courage to pass it.
That time has come. The courage must be in all of us and we must get this done. Thank you, Senator Murphy. Mr. President, I yield the floor.