Transcript: Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s response to the NRA’s call for armed guards at schools

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) response to the National Rifle Association’s call for armed guards at schools in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The press briefing was held on Dec. 21, 2012. 

Good afternoon everyone. I’m here with Sen. [Richard] Blumenthal, the senior Senator from Connecticut, and we would like to make a few remarks in response to the National Rifle Association’s press conference this morning.

This morning, the NRA said that they wanted to have a conversation about security in our schools, and I’d like to respond along with Sen. Blumenthal to that call.

If school districts want to hire armed security guards, I support that. It’s a decision each school district should make, and many school districts already have armed guards.

In fact, 28,300 public school – that’s about a third of all public schools – have armed security staff.

In fact, there were two armed law enforcement officers who twice engaged the shooters at Columbine. That didn’t prevent 15 from being killed and 23 wounded…

The NRA’s blanket call to arm our schools is really nothing more than a distraction. It’s a delay tactic. It’s a distraction from the availability of military-style assault weapons on our streets, in our schools, used at malls, used at work places, used in movie theaters, and they allow for much death and destruction.

It’s a distraction from the prevalence of large ammunition feeding devices that allows shooters to expel 20, 30, 60, 100 and even more bullets.

And it’s a distraction from how easy it is to purchase weapons at gun shows with no background checks at all.

The weapons today are much more powerful and lethal than when we did this bill in 1993, and that’s a problem and the time has come to address it.

I’m not going to demonize anyone. As I’ve said before, I’m willing to talk to anyone, listen to anyone. I’m open to suggestions to make legislation better and more effective.

Should we have a conversation about school security? Yes.

Should we have a conversation about mental illness and the culture of violence? Yes.

But we can’t ignore the common denominator in all of these deadly massacres: Access – easy access to killing machines.

Sandy Hook is only the latest tragedy and more horrendous than anything I ever thought could happen in the United States of America.

But these massacres are happening in our shopping malls, our movie theaters, our businesses and our offices.

And the only thing that’s consistent in all of them are the guns, and that’s the conversation we need to have.

I’d like to urge anyone in the Senate – Republican or Democrat – who are interested to call us. We’d like to sit down with you. We’d like to hear your ideas and we would be hopeful that you would join with us.

Let me just end with one thing: 1993 I got a whole bunch of gun magazines and went through them and sort of did a study of the state of the art of these guns then. We just re-did that and I have on my desk these – sort of these magazines – which will show the state of the art today – 2012. I cannot tell you how much more sophisticated and technologically advanced these weapons are – all stemming from military weapons. There are even devices which can be put in them legally which makes them fully automatic.

And as you read this – this literature – you see the enormous killing power that’s out there on the streets for virtually anybody to buy or obtain.

What we’re looking at now is placing these weapons under the Federal Firearms Act – the same act that exists for automatic weapons. Since there are now devices to legally make them automatic, it seems to me that it is prudent to place them under the federal firearms act and this would require that they be registered, their owners have a background check. It’s inconceivable after what the NRA said to me today that they don’t think people who have guns should have background checks or that they should be registered. We are also looking at a buyback program. Now, again this is a work in progress so these are ideas in the development…

They have to register their military-style assault weapons. Well, they’d be put under the provisions of the Federal Firearms Act.

Look, there is no more uphill fight than this. The question is do we fight or do we knuckle-under? We’re not knuckle-unders. We’re just not going to knuckle-under. It may take a year, it may take two, it may take three. In the meantime, I believe – through social media, I believe through efforts like Mayor Bloomberg has announced he is launching – that we need to elect people who understands that America cannot be turned into an armed camp, where the safety of our citizens is jeopardized by the rights of a few who don’t want anything to curtail their gun rights no matter how powerful those weapons are. And we’re just looking at one class of weapons – weapons designed to kill people in close combat and military situations…

This is a big fight. This is a fight that the American people are going to have to stand up and stiffen their spine. Either you’re going to let the NRA take over and dictate to this country or you’re going to enable your elected representatives to vote their conscience based on their experience, based on their sense of right, based on their need to protect their schools, their malls, their workplaces, and their businesses.

I’d like to read the transcript of Columbine – of the Sheriff’s transcript of what happened if I can for a moment.

This is the transcript compiled by the Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff’s office:

“Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Neil Gardner [sp], the school’s community resource officer, seeing Harris working with his gun, leaned over the top of his car and fired four shots. He was 60 yards from the gunman. Harris spun hard to the right and Gardner momentarily though he had hit him. Seconds later, Harris began shooting again at the Deputy. After the exchange of gunfire, Harris ran back into the building. Gardner was able to get to the police radio and call for assistance from another Sheriff’s unit: ‘Shots in the building. I need someone in the south lot with me.’ Later, another officer fired back at Harris as a student shot out a window.”

Again, according to the Sheriff’s transcript: “Harris, leaning out of a broken window on the set of the double doors into the school, began shooting a rifle. Jefferson County Deputy Paul Smoker [sp] fires three rounds at him and the gunman disappears from the window. Smoker continues to hear gunfire from inside the building as more students flee from the school.”

Now, that’s the point: There were two armed law enforcement officers at that campus and you see what happened – 15 dead, 23 wounded.

The question is: Is this solving the situation? And my answer is no. What about the workplace? What got me into this was an incident at 101 California Street, where I think 14 people were shot in a law office up in a huge high-rise tower. Does every law office have to have security? Every business security? Every factory where a grievance worker comes in and shoots have to have security? Is this the answer that America should become armed camp? I don’t think so and I don’t think that’s the American dream.

Let me go back to ’93. It was hard. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the House was defeated. The speaker was defeated. The NRA went out to target people after they voted for the assault weapons legislation during which period they were very critical of it – “It’s cosmetic. It’s not going to do any good.” Etcetera, etcetera. But they were targeting and threatening and they carried these threats out, and people were intimidated. I really believe that. And I think that fear of intimidation has carried on to today.

I come from the biggest state in the union. It’s a state where I’m in sync. It takes a lot of courage for a Senator from a mountain state…it takes tremendous courage and backbone for people to stand up and that’s the test.

You know, leaders lead. We don’t follow. And we’ve had so much since the beginning of the first mass shooting at the Texas bell tower in 1967 – these events have just proliferated along with the increased technological killing power of weapons that are on the streets.

So it’s a big problem today.

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