WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema delivered a Senate floor speech on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act – legislation Sinema championed with Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Click HERE to watch Sinema’s speech.
Sinema’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes support for state crisis intervention orders, investment in children and family mental health services, protections for victims of domestic violence, funding for school-based mental health and supportive services, funding for school safety resources, and more. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is fully offset and does not raise taxes on everyday Arizonans. HERE is full text of the bipartisan legislation.
Sinema’s speech as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Madam President. I rise today at a time in which families in Arizona and across America are scared.
For too long, they’ve seen unacceptable levels of violence in their communities, and it threatens their sense of safety and security.
The morning after the horrific tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, we all felt that fear — we felt it when we spoke to neighbors and friends, and checked on our loved ones to ensure they were okay.
For decades, parents have lived with the unnerving uncertainty of what might happen when they send their children to school, or attend worship services, go to the grocery store, or even simply let their kids play outside.
For too long, political games in Washington – on both sides of the aisle – have stopped progress toward protecting our communities and keeping families safe and secure.
Commonsense proposals have been tossed to the side by partisan lawmakers choosing politics instead of solutions.
Elected officials have made a habit of insulting one another for offering thoughts and prayers, for blaming violence on strictly mental illnesses, video games, particular kinds of weapons, or any cause that didn’t align with and confirm their own pre-determined beliefs.
Casting blame and trading political barbs and attacks became the path of least resistance, but the communities across our country who have experienced senseless violence deserve better than the Washington politics as usual.
Our communities deserve a commitment by their leaders to do the hard work of putting aside politics, identifying problems that need solving, and working together towards common ground and common goals.
On May 24th, as news spread of the shooting in Uvalde and the 21 beautiful lives cut short, my friend and colleague Senator Chris Murphy came to the Senate floor and asked the Senate one simple question: What are we doing, why are we here, if not to solve a problem as existential as this?
I’m grateful that colleagues on both sides of the aisle answered Chris’s question by resolving to do the hard work, build consensus, and find solutions.
Senator Murphy – a tireless advocate for families in Connecticut – reached out to my friend Senator John Cornyn of Texas, offering his condolences and assistance.
Senator Cornyn was in Uvalde, comforting families experiencing the unthinkable, and Senator Murphy had sadly been in a similar place ten years before, at Sandy Hook.
That same day, I reached out to Senator Cornyn and Senator Thom Tillis – two friends I’ve worked with to craft lasting, bipartisan solutions managing the crisis at our border and helping veterans access the benefits they’ve earned. We planned to quickly get together and identify realistic solutions.
Within one day, Senators Murphy, Cornyn, Tillis and myself — all representing diverse states from across the country – sat down and started working together.
That same day, we met with a larger group of 12 bipartisan Senators – all of whom were eager to sit down, work together, and find a path forward.
Those meetings started a four-week process, considering and working towards a host of solutions that would save lives, make our communities safer, and protect Americans’ constitutional rights.
As we wrote our bill, we viewed our conversations as collaborations, not negotiations.
We refused to frame our work as giving something up to get something in return, and we stayed laser focused on our shared goal of reducing violence and saving lives across American communities.
We acknowledged that the root of violence plaguing our communities is complex. It can partly be attributed to criminals with dangerous weapons and to a mental health crisis affecting young people in cities and towns across America.
We spent hours considering policy provisions, ensuring we got the language right and that every policy included in our bill could save lives, help children learn and grow in healthy, supportive environments, and make our communities safer, more vibrant places.
It was hard work, and it was worth it.
Together, we put aside our differences, focused on our shared values, and crafted a bill that expands resources in schools to help kids grow and learn where they feel connected to their communities and know they can seek help if they need it.
We boosted mental health resources through more community behavioral health clinics and increased access to telehealth services, ensuring kids and families have access to care no matter where they live.
Our mental health and school support proposals include evidenced-based resources and programs that I saw help reduce violence as a young social worker serving in Sunnyslope and Shaw Butte Elementary Schools in Phoenix.
Our provisions to protect more survivors of domestic violence will reduce the impact of trauma in children’s lives all across the country, ensuring more kids and families grow up in safe homes, free from violence and the fear of violence.
And, acknowledging the fact that the overwhelming number of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, we crack down on criminals who illegally sell or purchase guns, and ensure that courts, consistent with clear due process rights, can keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of people dangerous to themselves or others.
I’m the sister of a police officer and I grew up in a family of gun owners.
I know first-hand how fundamental the Second Amendment is to families across Arizona — Arizonans have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and that right will not be infringed upon.
Instead, our Bipartisan Safer Communities Act ensures our background check system works effectively and includes those who have committed dangerous crimes as juveniles or have a history of domestic violence – protecting the Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans while reducing familial violence and the occurrences of childhood trauma.
All of these tools together will give families in Arizona and across our country more peace of mind, so they can trust that their communities are secure and their schools are safe.
And critically, the broad, bipartisan support of well over 60 Senators from across the political spectrum — including both the Republican and Democratic Senate Leaders — ensures that when our bill is signed into law, it will stand the test of time.
Over the past few years, we’ve been told time and time again that bipartisanship just isn’t possible.
And, even after proving bipartisan success with our historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law last year, we continued to be asked by pundits and political purists to accept a new standard by which important policy can only come together on a party line.
But that just isn’t true. What could be more important than keeping families and children safe and secure in their communities and their schools?
The truth is Americans are far more united than today’s politics would have you believe.
Ask our constituents in Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, North Carolina and every state in between what they want to see in Washington and they’ll tell you: an ability to work together, solve problems, and help them build better lives for themselves and their families.
Our bipartisan group of Senators rejected the notion that legislating must be a zero-sum game with winners on one tally sheet and losers on the other.
Together, we provided an example for how Washington can and should work.
We got out of our comfort zones, built broad coalitions with unlikely allies, and refused to demonize each other when things got tough.
I sincerely thank Senator Chris Murphy for his passion, Senator John Cornyn for his leadership, and Senator Thom Tillis for his pragmatism.
Each of you brought a unique perspective and expertise that allowed us to craft the most holistic approach to community violence in nearly 30 years.
I would also like to thank our staff – specifically my Legislative Director Michael Brownlie and my Counsel Chris Leuchten – for their tireless hours, including working straight through Father’s Day, to get this bill right.
Your efforts will save lives, help families across our country feel more secure, and make our schools safer.
I promised Arizonans I would be an independent leader for our state, and that I’d ignore the chaos of Washington and focus instead on getting things done.
It won’t surprise anyone listening today when I say Washington has not always liked my approach.
Our bipartisan bill demonstrates the difference elected leaders can make in the lives of our constituents when we choose to heal our divisions, instead of feed those divisions.
Our historic legislation proves bipartisan solutions are possible when we stay focused on what we were sent to Washington to do – solve problems, help Americans thrive, and ensure our country remains a safe and secure place to call home.
And on this particular bill, my colleagues and I join together with a special sense of purpose to honor the lives tragically lost to senseless violence in Uvalde, in Buffalo, in Parkland, in Charleston, in Tucson, at Sandy Hook, and in communities all across our country.
Our plan will make American communities safer, and help return a sense of security to everyday American families. I couldn’t be more grateful for this moment.
Thank you, and I yield the floor.