Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said his children were on lockdown during the shooting in Atlanta on Wednesday and called on Congress to act with new gun legislation in response.
Warnock said on the Senate floor that the schools where his two children attend were on lockdown during the afternoon as as someone opened fire at a medical building, killing at least one person and injuring multiple others.
“They’re there. I’m here, hoping and praying that they are safe. But the truth is none of us is safe,” he said.
Police are searching for a suspect they identified as 24-year-old Deion Patterson, who they believe opened fire at a medical building on West Peachtree Street in Atlanta. Officials said one person was pronounced dead at the scene, while others have been transported to a hospital.
They have warned that the suspect should be considered “armed and dangerous.”
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“As a pastor, I’m praying for those who are affected by this tragedy, but I hasten to say that thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Warnock said. “And in fact, it is a contradiction to say that you are thinking and praying and then do nothing. It is to make a mockery of prayer.”
He said some opponents of gun legislation argue that the current state is the “cost of freedom.” He said the “slow-moving tragedy” throughout the country is the cost of “blind obstinance,” refusing to change course despite evidence, “demagoguery” and greed.
Warnock said gun lobbyists are interested in trying to “line their pockets even at the cost of our children.”
“And so, we must act,” he said.
Warnock said he is proud of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first federal gun legislation that Congress passed in 30 years, from the last session of Congress.
The act implemented measures like enhanced background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, requirements that those who regularly purchase and sell guns register as federal firearm licensees and additional funding for states to pass red flag laws. The legislation was passed in the aftermath of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022.
Warnock cited polls showing an overwhelming majority of Americans support implementing universal background checks for potential gun buyers. He criticized Congress for not being able to act on a topic that so many people agree on.
“In a country where there’s 87 percent agreement on something, there’s no movement in Congress, which means that that’s a problem with our democracy. The people’s voices have been squeezed out of their democracy, and there’s a growing chasm between what the people actually want and what they can get from their government,” he said.