Senate Rebecca Rios' Full Remarks on the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas
May 25, 2022
PHOENIX – "Members just this past week, I watched one of my daughters graduate high school. Bright eyed and ready for college, my little girl crossed the stage, and my heart was overflowing with pride because that’s my whole world up there marking one of life's biggest milestones. Before I know it, she will be crossing that college graduation stage, taking her place in the world, meeting the love of her life, getting married, and I might just have the greatest honor of welcoming grand babies into the world.
But all my joy seems a little less bright today, because I know 19 moms and dads and nanas and tatas will never get that. Yesterday in Texas, the world watched an all too familiar scene of police swarming a school, parents heartbroken in parking lots, and children's name flash across the news because they won't ever make it back home.
Members, I want to be clear. I can't just stand here and say that 19 children were shot and killed yesterday because that has lost its sting for too many. I want to outline what was stolen, carelessly and violently, yesterday. And in this case, I'm purposely using the word stolen because this was an intentional choice – this was the aftermath of decades of inaction on common sense gun reform.
To make sure blame doesn’t get misplaced, 19 lives were stolen because of 50 US Senators, an archaic Senate procedural rule, and because of state legislatures just like ours that refuse to act end the gun violence epidemic in this country, but rather send a nicely packaged thoughts and prayers message.
19, 8th grade promotion parties – stolen.
19, 16th birthday celebrations and nerve racking first drives around the block with mom and dad – stolen.
19, proms, state championships, college acceptance celebrations – stolen.
19, high school graduations – stolen.
19, "I got the job" calls to home – stolen.
19, college graduations – stolen.
19, weddings – stolen.
19, annual family reunion celebrations – stolen.
19 lives, full of memories, hardships, triumphs and potential – stolen.
We are complicit in this. We come to work every day here and allow bills like HB2316 - misconduct involving weapons; public places and HB2414 - misconduct involving weapons; school grounds to stay alive in the chamber. These bills and multitudes of others that I have seen in my time here at the Arizona legislature, make it easier to get guns and harder for us to punish those that commit crimes with them.
Honestly, we should just pack up today and let our constituents know that gun violence is here to stay - because the gun lobby tied our hands, and we are too cowardly to fight them. Every day that we sit quietly by watching our school kids getting hunted in the classrooms, we sign off on their deaths. We enable this carnage and for the very life of me, I cannot understand why we are able to move on from this each time it happens. It takes a special kind of monster to gun down children, but what does it make us when we watch monsters terrorize our communities and school yards day after day and do nothing?
At this point I figure; I have angered some sitting in this room. You’re probably thinking "why politicize this?" or "it's time to mourn, not talk about gun reform." But let's be honest – we knew this was coming. The very prayer we heard yesterday injected politics into this conversation by urging us to mourn quietly rather than rock the boat.
Well, here I am, ready to rock this boat until we decide that shilling for the gun lobby and dangerous gun totting fanatics just isn’t worth it. Because last time I checked, no number of gut-wrenching prayers is going to make God send those babies back home. But I have a strong feeling that in this moment God didn’t want to have to open his gates to 19 little ones this soon.
Choosing to dismiss this issue in the name of keeping politics out of it, dishonors the memory of teachers who stood protecting those children to the very end. They gave their life, and we can’t even be bothered to give them the time of day. Just last week, we saw teachers across the country be vilified, called groomers, drains on the system, agenda pushers – but after each mass shooting - teachers get applause and somehow morph into upstanding individuals who should be armed in the classroom. Get your story straight – either its political or not. Personally, I think it would be a whole lot easier to promise these teachers that we will work to stop this violence before we place a gun in their hand.
27 school shootings have happened this year – 1 happened here in Kingman. Every year in America we see more mass shootings than there are days in the year. How detached from sanity have we become to allow this to happen?
Gun violence must be enemy number one for us. We owe that to our children. We owe that to every parent that has an empty chair at their dinner table tonight.
It's time to do more than beg higher powers for peace or send empty messages of support to those torn apart by gun violence. Members, we need to act before we watch the lives of more children get stolen."