On the day after an emotional meeting with survivors of the Parkland school shooting, Sen. Bob Menendez was in Cliffside Park for an event intended to promote reading, although the events in Florida just two weeks ago remained fresh on the minds of those involved.
“I’d like to see us be able to do something about some reasonable gun safety measures that maybe could stop some of the terrible things we see in our country,” Menendez told the fifth graders of Public School 5.
To make his point about working together in government, the senator chose “House Mouse, Senate Mouse,” which tells the story of how the “Senate Mouse-jority leader” and the “Squeaker of the House” forge a compromise after a contentious debate over a national cheese. The result?
“Let’s agree that ‘American’ is our national cheese,” Menendez read aloud.
Would that it were so easy in the real Congress, where compromise is hard to find and where political opinions go to metastasize. After his meeting with the kids Monday, Menendez talked with a group of reporters about the kids of Parkland and the movement they may have started.
“Well, I certainly hope that the Parkland students who were with us Sunday – and are going to Washington Monday, they told me – can continue a momentum that I think we haven’t seen in some time. And it is their drive, their innocence and their persistence that may make the difference this time,” said the senator.
Menendez says he was impressed with the poise of some of the teens who have become national spokespersons for changes in gun control laws almost overnight. The senator says he sees some change as possible.
“We need a universal background check,” he told reporters. “Universal means whether you want to go try to go buy a gun on the Internet, or you want to go to a gun show or buy from another person, you’re going to have to go through a background check to make sure that you have no criminal background, no mental health problems, no domestic abuser. I think that’s pretty simple. It doesn’t stop anybody from getting a gun who shouldn’t get a gun, but it can stop millions of people who shouldn’t get a gun from being able to do so.”
Menendez also reiterated his opposition to bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. All of this, along with age restrictions for gun purchases, is part of a growing national debate, which is critical with so many young lives at stake.
“They have scars, they have scars,” said Menendez of the Parkland survivors. “They’re probably lifetime scars.”
But, unlike the characters in “House Mouse, Senate Mouse,” this Congress finds its decision making influenced by tens of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists and other entrenched interests, making happy endings harder to come by.