TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Mary Leigh and Charlie Blek of Laguna Hills, Calif., lost their
21-year-old son, Matthew, when he was shot and killed by a teenager in New York
City. Catherine and Pedro Murphy, both New York City police officers, lost
their 12-year-old son, Christopher, when a friend, who was playing with his
older brother's illegal handgun, accidentally shot him. Tom Vanden Berk lost
his 15-year-old son, Tommy, when he was shot and killed by a teenager in
Rebecca Lynn's 18-year-old daughter, Betina, was seriously wounded one
year ago this week when a classmate opened fire at her school in Springfield,
Ore. Tom Mauser's 15-year-old son, Daniel, was killed in the Columbine High
School shooting on April 20. Daniel, a straight-A student, was studying through
his lunch hour in the school library when he was shot at point-blank range.
Last Saturday, these anguished parents, along with many others whose
children were victims of gun violence, joined me at the White House for a
special Mother's Day event to highlight the importance of keeping our children
safe from guns. We all took this Mother's Day Pledge:
"I will not give my child unsupervised access to a firearm. I will not
allow my child to play in a home where guns are improperly stored. If I own a
gun, I will unload it and lock it up and store the ammunition separately and
securely. I will urge others, including my elected officials, to do everything
in their power to protect our children from guns."
Looking into the faces of those assembled in the East Room, I had to
wonder what it will take for our country to say, "Enough." What will it take
for our Congress to pass common-sense gun laws to keep handguns and assault
weapons out of the hands of juveniles and criminals? How many more children
have to die?
On Saturday, Tom Mauser reminded us that parents -- especially the
parents of teenagers -- have to be more involved with their children. "Parents
need to be more in tune with their children," he said. "There needs to be more
talking, more listening, more hugging, more teaching of tolerance, more time
together and less time with televisions and computers." He also asked us to
ponder what is wrong with our culture and why our children have such easy
access to guns.
Tom is right. It's time for all of us to take responsibility for our
children and to find answers to his questions.
This week, several members of Congress took a step when Sen. Charles
Schumer and 10 co-sponsors introduced the President's Youth Gun Crime
Enforcement Act in the Senate. This bill would strengthen the Brady Law and the
assault-weapons ban, restrict access to guns by youth, and crack down on
illegal gun traffickers.
Also this week, the President and I, along with Vice President and Mrs.
Gore, welcomed a distinguished and diverse group of Americans to the White
House to begin the hard work of developing a strategy to protect our children
from violence. In addition to several young people, the group included
entertainment and media executives, representatives of gun owners and the gun
industry, religious leaders, parents and other experts on youth violence -- all
determined to look for solutions rather than point fingers or cast blame.
Behind closed doors, the exchanges were frank and constructive. Sarah
Brady, one of this country's most devoted gun-control advocates, and
representatives of the gun industry agreed to support the President's proposed
gun legislation. Video-game manufacturers and Internet leaders promised the
Vice President to work together on developing an on-line rating system for
And we announced a national campaign to prevent youth violence. Based
on other successful non-profit organizations, like the National Campaign to
Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Welfare to Work Partnership, this public-private
alliance will work to devise specific solutions to help parents, schools,
community groups, the media and gun manufacturers -- in short, all of us --
prevent youth violence.
When I wrote my book, "It Takes a Village," I added this subtitle: "And
Other Lessons Children Teach Us." There are many lessons to be learned from our
children. But if there's one lesson we must take to heart in the wake of the
Littleton tragedy, it's that we must act now to keep our children safe. Raising
our children is our most important job. We owe it to them to do the best we
I'm encouraged by the steps we took this week. We know that when we
work together, we can change America. Everyone -- from parents and community
leaders to CEOs and members of Congress -- has a role to play. Next Mother's
Day, I hope that none of us will be looking into the eyes of yet another parent
who has lost a child to senseless violence.
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