Bennet Remembers Victims of Boulder Shooting in Floor Speech, Calls for Action

VIDEO: Watch Bennet’s speech HERE 
 
 

Washington, D.C. - Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet spoke on the Senate floor about the tragic mass shooting in Boulder this week that left 10 people, including a Boulder police officer, dead.

“It is hard to believe that I’m on this floor again after losing ten more people, this time in Boulder, Colorado, to another horrible mass shooting in our state,” Bennet said in his speech. “And I’ve spent the past day learning about the victims of this terrible crime, and I want America to know what extraordinary human beings we’ve lost in my state.” 

He continued, “Boulder will heal but this scar will always be there. My daughter’s generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them. They, and the children that I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools, they carry a burden that we didn’t carry.”

“I’m not asking anybody to show the same courage that Officer Talley showed, or the other men and women of law enforcement who constantly have to deal with the inability of this place's capacity to deal with these issues. I’m just asking us to show an ounce of their courage, by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities, to pass universal background checks, to limit the size of magazines, to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country. It seems like that would be the least that we could do,” Bennet said.

Bennet’s remarks as delivered are below:

It is hard to believe that I’m on this floor again after losing ten more people, this time in Boulder, Colorado, to another horrible mass shooting in our state. 

I’m sure the presiding officer doesn’t remember that last week, after the events in Atlanta, I came over to your desk and I said that we were so sorry in Colorado for what had happened in Atlanta. And then just three or four days later, it happened again in Colorado.   

And I’ve spent the past day learning about the victims of this terrible crime, and I want America to know what extraordinary human beings we’ve lost in my state:

Here they are, Mr. President.

Denny Stong, age 20.

Denny was a graduate of Fairview High School – an introverted, smart kid who loved history and model airplanes.

He’d been covering shifts at the King Sooper and took enormous pride in his role as an essential worker during this pandemic.

He once posted on Facebook: “I can’t stay home…I am a grocery store worker.”

Neven Stanisic, age 23.

Neven’s dad said he was, “a really good boy, a good kid…a hard-working boy.”

His parents are refugees from Bosnia who left in the 1990s to escape the war.

The reverend at their local church said, “His family fled the war…and everything they had was either left behind or destroyed…They left everything to save their lives, and came here to have a new start,” said the pastor.  

They came to America to have a new start, only to have their son’s life ended by this senseless act of violence.

Rikki Olds, Mr. President, was 25 years old.

Rikki had been working as a manager at King Soopers for six years.

Her family described her as a “firecracker” who lit up a room with her infectious giggle.

Her aunt Lori said, “She had a beautiful way of just being her…When you’re down, she just wanted to cheer you up, just by being around.” 

Tralona Bartkowiak , age 49.

She co-owned a clothing and accessories store, Umba Love, with her sister and was a frequent presence in the Boulder arts and music scene.

She had a deep curiosity about the world that took her on travels from Nepal to Costa Rica.

Her younger brother remembers her as “a beam of light.”

Teri Leiker, age 51.  

She was a huge fan of the Buffaloes at CU. A regular face at the Pearl Street Stampede.

A friend called Teri “the most selfless, innocent, amazing person I have had the honor of meeting.”

Suzanne Fountain, 59 years old.

She worked for 15 years in the Boulder Community Hospital.

She loved gardening and was passionate about music and theater. 

A friend described her as “the cream of the crop and a good person, a good soul.”

Kevin Mahoney, age 61.

Kevin had worked in the hotel business but retired early to spend more time travelling, skiing, and visiting his daughter Erika.

After learning of her father’s death, Erika wrote, “My dad represents all things Love. I’m so thankful he could walk me down the aisle last summer.”

Lynn Murray, age 62.

Lynn was a mother of two and a retired photo director for prominent national magazines. 

Her husband John said, “I just want her to be remembered as this amazing, amazing comet spending 62 years flying across the sky.”

Jody Waters, 65 years old. 

Jody used to own a boutique clothing store named Applause on the Pearl Street Mall, where she remembered all her customers and their favorite brands.

She was a mother of two and a grandmother who loved horses and hiking.

A friend said when Jody walked into the  room, “she was a breath of fresh air, a light.”

Finally, Officer Eric Talley, he was 51 years old.

He was a man of deep faith and a devoted father of seven.

After losing a close friend to a DUI, he joined the police academy at age 40, just 11 years ago, to give back to the community.

In 2013, he made headlines when he helped rescue 11 ducklings from a drainage ditch.

Eric’s father said he “loved his kids and family more than anything.” 

For their sake, he was hoping to stay off the front lines by learning to become a drone operator.

But when the bullets rang out, he rushed into action – first on the scene, saving countless lives at the cost of his own.

Officer Talley and these other folks represent the best of Colorado. And we certainly owe Officer Talley a debt of gratitude we’ll never be able to repay. 

Mr. President, my heart goes out to all the families, and the entire community of Boulder. We have endured too many tragedies as a state. So many other states are the same here.

The shootings at Columbine High School happened right before my oldest daughter was born, Caroline Bennet. She is 21 years old, and her entire generation has grown up in the shadow of gun violence––something none of us had to do. 

I remember, Mr. President, after a gunman in Las Vegas took the lives of 59 Americans, that was a Monday that I came to work and realized during the course of the day that I was having meeting after meeting after meeting and nobody was mentioning the massacre of 59 Americans. 

I don’t know if it was two, or three, or four of these events before that, that we began to somehow accept this as normal -- that you can lose that many people and not have a conversation about what had happened. The headlines all moving on to the next thing.

And we can’t allow this to become normal.

And it’s not just the mass shootings, it’s the daily shootings the presiding officer and I talked about last week that have happened in Atlanta over the last couple of weekends, or on the West Side of Chicago. So we can’t move on.

Boulder will heal but this scar will always be there. My daughter’s generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them.

They, and the children that I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools, they carry a burden that we didn’t carry. 

They have grown up with a reasonable fear that they will be shot in their classrooms, or in their schools, or at a movie theater, or in any public place.

I didn’t grow up in an America with more gun related deaths than virtually any country in this world.  And we can’t accept it for their America.

I’m not asking anybody here to show the courage that Officer Talley showed, or the other men and women of law enforcement who constantly have to deal with the inability of this place's capacity to deal with these issues.

I’m just asking us to show an ounce of their courage, by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities; to pass universal background checks; to limit the size of magazines; to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country.

It seems like that would be the least that we could do.

In the wake of one of these incidents, I heard somebody say on a radio program that this was just the price of freedom -- that these murders are the price of freedom. 

What a shame that somebody would say that and mean it. 

What a surrender that represents to our children and to the victims of these crimes. What a sacrifice of their right to be free from fear. Who are we to insist that they live terrified in their own country? Nobody insisted that we live that way. But our failure to act has helped create these conditions. And we can’t wait any longer. The Senate needs to act. There’s nobody else to act but the United States Senate. 

I want to end by thanking my colleagues from Connecticut, Senator Blumethal and Senator Murphy, for their incredible, steadfast leadership for long before they came to the Senate. But I remember as one of the darkest moments of my Senate career -- the votes that we took after Newtown. When that elementary school -- Sandy Hook -- was shot up and twenty students were killed and the Senate couldn’t even pass universal background checks.

And they are here tonight to continue to make the case that we need to act. And I want to again thank them for their resilience and for caring about the people who lived and died in Colorado. I’m extremely grateful for their example. 

Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.