Sen. Cruz Honors Santa Fe High School Shooting Victims
Introduces two bills to enhance school safety, target felons and fugitives
May 15, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday delivered remarks on the Senate floor to honor the precious lives of the students and faculty members lost during the horrific events that unfolded at Santa Fe High School nearly one a year ago. This week, Sen. Cruz will reintroduce two bills to enhance school safety and prevent gun violence, including the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act and the School Security Enhancement Act, which allows local communities to utilize Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grants for measures that reinforce school safety infrastructure and technology.
"The last year has been an extremely difficult year for the Santa Fe families and for the community," Sen. Cruz said. "That mourning is indelibly marked onto that community. At the same time, they've been able to lean on each other and rely upon each other to support each other and to lift each other up in prayer. [...] To my colleagues in Congress, we need to unite together to make our schools safer, to prosecute felons and fugitives before they commit acts of murder, and to do everything to stop this horrific mass shooting epidemic. And we need to do it now. End the partisan battles, focus on the bad guys, and stop them before more lives of innocents are taken."
Sen. Cruz's full remarks may be found here and below:
"Mr. President, I rise today to give voice to a town in Texas. It is a small town with about 14,000 people. In that town, there's a high school. A school of about 1,500 students.
"One year ago, on May 18th a deeply disturbed and deranged student committed an unspeakable act of evil which shook Santa Fe, shook Texas, and shook the entire country. It left our nation weeping.
"Just before 8 o'clock in the morning, the shooter began firing weapons into classrooms, through doors where his fellow students were taking shelter.
"Within minutes, the attacker senselessly murdered eight students and two teachers. Their names are the following: Jared Conard Black, Christian Riley Garcia, Shana Fisher, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Glenda Ann Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Stone, Cynthia Tisdale, and Kimberly Vaughan.
"I would like us to pause for a moment of silence as we remember these brave souls.
"Their names will live on. Their killer's name will not. His name is never worth mentioning again.
"Thirteen others were also brutally wounded, including three substitute teachers. Flo Rice, one of the substitute teachers at the high school that day was shot five times. I've gotten to know Flo and her husband Scott well in the weeks and months since the shooting.
"But that day was not merely a day of great tragedy. It was also a day of incredible bravery.
"Santa Fe police officers did their duty and swiftly engaged the shooter. One of those police officers, John Barnes, was critically wounded in the process. They shot back, and ultimately they took the coward into custody.
"Santa Fe's students also proved themselves to be heroes. One of them, Riley Garcia, made the ultimate sacrifice. He held a door shut to give other students time to escape, and he was killed in the process. Other students tended to the wounded and to each other.
"In the wake of the shooting, Texans grieved with the families and the friends of those we lost. We heard stories of terror and stories of hope.
"I was at my home in Houston that morning. Santa Fe High School is about 45 minutes from my house. And when I got the call as to what was happening, I jumped in a truck and headed down there. Spent the entire day with families who had lost their children, with first responders, with teachers, with school leaders, with a community that was grieving mightily.
"But in Santa Fe, I also saw a boundless spirit and hope and unity. I remember that afternoon traveling to the hospital and visiting with a number of the students who had been shot and wounded that day. I remember meeting Clayton, a young man who had been shot just that morning. He had pins in his arm from being shot twice. Clayton described how he jumped over the fence even after having been shot and his friends helped carry him to safety.
"This young man described how he's a bull rider and a pole vaulter. I asked him if he's a lefty or righty. He said he's a lefty, and that was the arm that was wounded. But he said with a smile, ‘You know, now I've got to learn to ride a bull with my right arm.'
"That's the toughness and the spirit of these students and their entire community.
"All across Texas, all across the country millions of Americans lifted those children, lifted those families up in prayer. You know, it has become politically fashionable for some now to deride thoughts and prayers to suggest that thoughts and prayers are not appropriate.
"I will say this; we should always lift up in prayer those who are victimized by violence, by brutality, by terrorism, by murder. I believe in the power of prayer. And I'll tell you the community of Santa Fe leaned on the power of prayer in the wake of that tragedy. Now, thoughts and prayers are not themselves a substitute for action.
"And in the days, the weeks that followed, I met with mothers and fathers and teachers and students. I hosted Santa Fe students here in the Senate dining room. We talked with law enforcement, with first responders.
"I sat down with the president who traveled down to meet with the Santa Fe families and participated in a roundtable with Governor Abbott and families from Santa Fe and other communities victimized by violence, and officials at federal, state and local levels. We discussed how we can do a better job protecting our schools, protecting our children. We've lost too many kids to homicidal maniacs and it has to stop. We have to do much more to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, to better treat the mentally ill, all while preserving and protecting our Constitutional rights.
"There was a universal agreement in the wake of Santa Fe as a state and as a nation that we had to see justice done, to take every step to try to ensure that such an attack never occurs again. Soon after, I was gratified to hear that the Department of Education announced $1 million in federal funds for the Santa Fe Independent School District through a Project School Emergency Response to Violence grant, Project SERV.
"It was a crucial first step in federal funding to help the Santa Fe High School community recover and protect all its students.
"But the story does not end there.
"In addition to state prosecution, most of us assumed that there would be a federal case against the Santa Fe shooter as well, because his massive assault was on students and teachers at a public school, and crucially, because authorities found explosive devices on the school grounds and off campus including pipe bombs and a Molotov cocktail.
"With any reasonable observer, this would open the case to federal explosives or terrorism charges. And all of us were committed to seeing the attacker prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"Early press reports, however, indicated that federal authorities were not going to proceed with a federal case. Those press reports dismayed me, dismayed many. In particular, because the shooter was under 18 at the time of the massacre, which means it is likely the maximum state sentence he would receive is 40 years, which means if only state charges were brought; the shooter would be potentially eligible for release at 57 years old.
"Releasing this mass murderer into society wouldn't be just and it wouldn't be right. Thankfully, Attorney General Barr agreed and it's been publicly reported now that federal charges have come forward to ensure, that this attacker is brought to justice and faces the full consequences for the horrific acts of that morning.
"As we pause this week to remember the 10 people who lost their lives and the 13 people who were wounded one year ago, we should reflect on what's changed, but also on what still needs to be done to stop this epidemic of mass shootings and school shootings in particular.
"Last year, I was very proud that Congress authorized nearly a billion dollars in school safety funding legislation that I was a co-sponsor of. Nearly a billion dollars that schools can use to improve school safety including hardening doors so that shooters can't shoot through the school doors anymore. Shrinking the number of entrances and exits, installing metal detectors, and hiring armed police officers to keep our kids safe.
"That was an important first step, but we need to do more.
"That's why this week I'm reintroducing two important bills. First, I am reintroducing legislation to authorize more funding for school safety and to enable greater targeting of the felons and fugitives who try to buy firearms illegally. If a felon or fugitive, tries to purchase a firearm illegally, that felon or fugitive should be prosecuted and they should be put in federal jail.
"In 2013, my first year in the Senate, I introduced legislation with my friend Senator Grassley from Iowa to create a gun crime task force at the federal Department of Justice to ensure that federal convictions are in the national database and to direct the Department of Justice to prosecute the felons and fugitives who try to illegally buy guns. To put them in jail before they can take the lives of more innocents.
"Sadly, cynically, Senate Democrats filibustered that legislation; they prevented it from passing into law by demanding a 60 vote threshold.
"In light of the tragedies of Santa Fe and Parkland and Highlands Ranch High School just last week, I urge my colleagues to join me in making this commonsense bill law this Congress. Let's direct law enforcement resources to stopping violent criminals before they commit more heinous murders.
"I'm also reintroducing the bipartisan School Safety [Security] Enhancement Act with Democratic Senator Doug Jones, which would allow local communities to utilize Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to reinforce school safety infrastructure and technology. Installing metal detectors, bulletproof doors and windows, and establishing an efficient system for communicating important information to law enforcement and to parents are all important steps in improving school safety.
"I hope that we can join together and pass these bills so that our students are safer and we can do more to prevent future mass shootings.
"What happened in Santa Fe a year ago was a tragedy. The night of the shooting, there was a candlelight prayer vigil in the community - a public park in downtown Santa Fe. And even as you saw families grieving and in unspeakable agony, their hearts breaking, you also saw people coming together.
"When I was at the vigil that night, as you wept and mourned with students and parents experiencing the ultimate agony, you saw at the same time, students and parents in the community leaning on each other, holding each other, holding each other up, praying alongside each other, praying with each other, giving thanks for the heroism and strength. And that I think is the only way a community makes it out of a tragedy like that.
"The last year has been an extremely difficult year for the Santa Fe families and for the community. That mourning is indelibly marked onto that community.
"At the same time, they've been able to lean on each other and rely upon each other to support each other and to lift each other up in prayer. I want to conclude by saying to the families in Santa Fe, we are with you, we support you, we love you, and we're there for you.
"And to my colleagues in Congress, we need to unite together to make our schools safer, to prosecute felons and fugitives before they commit acts of murder, and to do everything to stop this horrific mass shooting epidemic. And we need to do it now.
"End the partisan battles, focus on the bad guys, and stop them before more lives of innocents are taken.
Madam Speaker, I yield the floor."