San Francisco, CA

Thank you, Gabby.

You’ve seen the darkest parts of the human heart, but you responded by becoming a light to so many others. By inspiring all of us to find our own courage and determination. Thank you. 
And thank you to Peter and the Giffords Law Center for inviting me to be with you today.
Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, Eleni, I’m so glad you could come and be a part of this special event.
And I’m grateful to have so many other leaders joining us.
Ava Olsen, from Townville, South Carolina, is 13.
But her friend, Jacob, will always be six.
Ava will try out different clothing trends and learn to drive. She’ll have crushes and graduate from high school.
But Jacob, the first boy she kissed, now forever dressed in his favorite Batman costume, will always be six.
Ava is a survivor.
After years of debilitating PTSD, unable to leave her home for fear of loud noises that would force her to relive those moments on the playground when she ran for her life, she returned to school. But the heaviness of that small coffin will always weigh on her heart.
Because Jacob will always be six.
Daniel Barden of Newtown will always be seven.
Jamie Guttenberg of Parkland will always be 14.
Hallie Scruggs of Nashville will always be nine.
The number of children we’ve lost to mass shootings is unfathomable.
The number of parents and siblings, teachers, journalists, police—innocents of every age. Those killed 30 years ago in the 101 California Street shooting. Those who died next to Gabby. Every massacre that turns our city names into synonyms for death.
But the lives lost don’t tell the whole story.
They don’t tell us of the loved ones who must live with a black hole of grief inside them, forever trapped in that gravity.
They don’t tell us of the classmates and coworkers who saw the blood, who heard the shots ring out, who wake each night in a sweat, dreaming of running and running. Of the students, miles and miles removed, who learn to live with the constant staccato of fear, who know how to hide before they can spell.
The parents who must steel themselves as they put their child on the bus each morning. The congregants who watch the door instead of the pulpit. The communities of color who wonder when hate will shadow their doorstep with an AR-15 in hand. The places where gun violence is too common to make the nightly news.
As a teacher, I’ve imagined the scene in my own classroom more times that I can count. At the start of each semester, I explain to my students what they should do if the worst happens. 
Again and again, families have turned on the news and asked themselves if this violence will come to their town.
But in some ways, it already has.
We all feel the ripple effects. We’ve all lost a piece of ourselves—our security, our hope, our trust in each other.
When Joe and I visited the Uvalde memorial last year—just 12 days after we mourned with the families in Buffalo—we stood in front of 21 crosses. I touched the pictures of the bright, beautiful faces that would never again laugh or open birthday presents or tell their parents that they loved them. We went to mass at Sacred Heart with families that were broken with grief. And as we were leaving the sanctuary, someone in the crowd yelled, “Do something.”
So Joe did. He worked with Congress to pass the first major gun safety law in 30 years.
Now, we’re stopping domestic abusers from buying guns. We strengthened background checks for young people. We increased funding for mental health programs and school security.
Before Uvalde, no one thought that kind of progress was possible.
Joe has taken dozens of executive actions to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people and save lives. He’s done everything in his power. And these changes will save lives. But it’s not enough.
We know that. Joe knows that.
We need Republicans in Congress to get out of the way. We need to pass universal background checks and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. And we have got to ban assault weapons nationally.
Joe did it before—and we can do it again.
I’m here today to tell you how much this issue matters to him. It weighs on his heart every day, and he’s not going to stop fighting for the common-sense gun reforms that we all want.
But I’m also here because I know how hard you have been fighting.
For 30 years, this organization has worked tirelessly to move us forward. And I know that it takes strength to tell the stories of this epidemic of violence again and again. I know it takes grit to keep going when those who stand in your way seem invincible. I know that you’re tired, and that there are moments when you ask yourself what more you can give.
But this kind of progress always seems impossible until it isn’t.
Don’t give up.
We need you.
Joe needs you.
Gabby needs you.
You are the voices that can change this conversation. You are the people who will hold our leaders accountable. You are the movement that will end the ripples of gun violence that touch us all. 
We can never bring back the lives that have been taken from us. Their loved ones will never be able to watch them graduate or start families or grow old. Never see them fulfill the incredible potential within them.
But we can still realize that power in ourselves.
We can stand up. Demand change. Reshape this world to be safer, more peaceful, less full of hurt and heartbreak.
Build a future where we hear loud noises without ducking for cover. Where we shop for groceries and go to movies without fear. Where every child—every person—can grow and chase their dreams and become the people they were meant to be.
Together, we will build that world.
Thank you.

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