Aurora shooter’s permit was revoked but gun wasn’t seized
By DON BABWIN and JULIE WATSON
Monday, February 18
AURORA, Ill. (AP) — An initial background check failed to detect a felony conviction that should have barred the man who killed five co-workers and wounded six other people at a suburban Chicago manufacturing plant from buying the gun.
Months later, a second background check of Gary Martin found his 1995 aggravated assault conviction in Mississippi involving the stabbing of an ex-girlfriend. But it prompted only a letter stating his gun permit had been revoked and ordering him to turn over his firearm to police — raising questions about the state’s enforcement to ensure those who lose their permits also turn over their weapons.
A vigil for the victims, including a university student on his first day as an intern and a longtime plant manager, was held Sunday outside Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago. More than 1,500 people braved snow and freezing drizzle to attend.
Martin, 45, was killed in a shootout with officers Friday, ending his deadly rampage at the plant. His state gun license permit was revoked in 2014, Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said.
But he never gave up the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun he used in the attack. Investigators are still trying to determine what exactly law enforcement agencies did after that letter was sent, Ziman said.
Illinois lawmakers who support more gun control measures said Martin was able to keep the gun because of a flaw in the 1968 law that requires residents to get a Firearm Owner’s Identification card, or FOID card, to purchase firearms or ammunition. They must pass a background check, but the law does not mandate that police ensure weapons have been removed if a red flag is raised later.
Legislation was introduced in 2016 to require police go to the homes of gun owners who have their FOID cards revoked and search for the weapons, but it failed over concerns it would overtax police departments, said Democratic Rep. Kathleen Willis.
She wants to see a similar measure introduced again.
“Let’s use some common sense. If you have someone with a felony, obviously they are not the best law-abiding citizens who are going to follow through when they get the letter and go, ‘oh yeah, here’s my gun, no problem,’” Willis said. “We have to have oversight. That’s the biggest flaw in the whole system. We’re asking people who already have done something wrong, to do something right.”
Last year, Illinois joined other states like California in passing a law that allows family members to petition to have a gun removed from a home and a person’s permit revoked if they believe they might use it to harm themselves or others.
Lawmakers are also working to add teeth to restrictions on the transfers of gun ownership from a person whose permit has been revoked, Willis said. The change follows a 2018 shooting at a Tennessee Waffle House involving a man who had to give his guns to his father after his Illinois FOID card was revoked, but his father later gave them back to him.
Legislators want people who obtain such weapons to sign an affidavit vowing to not return the weapons to the original owner.
Martin was no stranger to police in Aurora, where he had been arrested six times over the years for what Ziman described as “traffic and domestic battery-related issues” and for violating an order of protection.
After an initial background check failed to detect his felony conviction, Martin was issued his FOID card and bought the Smith & Wesson handgun on March 11, 2014. Five days after that, he applied for a concealed carry permit. That background check, which used digital fingerprinting, did flag his Mississippi felony conviction and led the Illinois State Police to revoke his permit.
Records stemming from his 1995 conviction in Mississippi described an extremely violent man who abused a former girlfriend, at one point hitting her with a baseball bat and stabbing her with a knife, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
After serving less than three years, he moved to Illinois and landed a job at Henry Pratt. The conviction was not detected in a company background check.
Authorities said Saturday that Martin pulled out the gun and began shooting right after hearing he was being fired from his job of 15 years at the industrial valve manufacturer for various workplace violations. The company has not given further details on what they were.
Martin killed three people in the room with him and two others just outside, Ziman said. Among the dead was a college student starting a human resources internship at the plant that day. Martin also wounded a sixth worker, who is expected to survive.
After wounding five officers, Martin hid in the back of the building, where officers found him about an hour later and killed him during an exchange of gunfire, police said. All of the wounded officers are expected to live.
Police identified the slain workers as human resources manager Clayton Parks of Elgin; plant manager Josh Pinkard of Oswego; mold operator Russell Beyer of Yorkville; stock room attendant and fork lift operator Vicente Juarez of Oswego; and Trevor Wehner, the new intern and a Northern Illinois University student who lived in DeKalb and grew up in Sheridan.
Wehner, 21, was on the dean’s list at NIU’s business college and was on track to graduate in May with a degree in human resource management.
The Rev. Dan Haas told those who gathered outside Henry Pratt for Sunday’s vigil that the killings left the victims’ families brokenhearted and in mourning.
“All of these were relatively young people — many of them were very young people. We will never know their gifts and talents. Their lives were snuffed out way too short,” he said.
Babwin reported from Chicago. Watson reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Caryn Rousseau, Carrie Antlfinger and Amanda Seitz contributed.
Aurora shooting victims included plant manager, intern
By CARYN ROUSSEAU
Monday, February 18
CHICAGO (AP) — The victims of an employee who started shooting after hearing he was being fired at a suburban Chicago industrial warehouse were co-workers that included a plant manager whose wife says he texted her “I love you, I’ve been shot at work,” and an intern in his first day on the job. A look at the victims:
Terra Pinkard says it all started with a text from her husband, Josh: “I love you, I’ve been shot at work.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that she later learned he was among the five victims of Friday’s shooting at Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora.
She wrote in a Facebook post Sunday that she read the text message several times before it “hit me that it was for real.” She called Josh’s phone, texted him and FaceTimed him, but got no response.
She called Henry Pratt, where he had been plant manager since the spring of 2018, and a woman answered and said she was “barricaded in her room with police everywhere.”
“Of course my heart dropped,” Terra Pinkard wrote.
She loaded her and Josh’s three children into her car and drove toward the plant. When an officer stopped her at a street that had been closed and couldn’t provide information, she headed to two of the nearest hospitals.
Hours later, police told her about a staging area for victims’ families. An officer there read Josh’s name among the fatalities.
“I want to shout from the rooftops about how amazing Josh was! He was brilliant! The smartest person I’ve ever met! My best friend! The man I would have leaned on during devastation like this who would tell me it’s ok Terra, it is all going to be fine,” she wrote in the Facebook post. “The man who was dying and found the clarity of mind for just a second to send me one last text to let me know he would always love me.”
Josh Pinkard, 37, had attended the meeting where the gunman was fired.
A native of Alabama, Josh joined the parent company 13 years ago at its Albertville, Alabama, facility.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas, according to his LinkedIn account.
The 21-year-old Northern Illinois University student was on his first day as an intern in human resources at Henry Pratt and also was at the fateful meeting.
Jay Wehner said his nephew grew up about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Aurora in Sheridan and was expected to graduate from Northern Illinois University in May with a degree in human resource management. He was on the dean’s list at NIU’s business college.
“He always, always was happy,” Jay Wehner said. “I have no bad words for him. He was a wonderful person. You can’t say anything but nice things about him.”
Ted Beyer said his son had a “big heart” and tried his best to make his office a better place. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that’s why the 20-year mold operator and union chairman sat in on Gary Martin’s termination meeting Friday afternoon. Ted Beyer said his son had helped Martin win back his job months earlier.
Russ Beyer was shot outside the meeting.
“He was a hard worker, just like I was,” Ted Beyer, 71, said of his son. “I loved him … We were close. He was my first kid.”
Russ Beyer had followed in the footsteps of his father, a previous union chairman who worked at Henry Pratt for four decades. Ted and his 46-year-old son enjoyed camping, fishing and swimming together, usually at Taylorville Lake in central Illinois.
They also shared one more connection: Ted Beyer had also previously vouched for Martin in grievance meetings with management. Beyer remembered Martin as a kind, caring man who brought him coffee and walked with him following back surgery.
But, Beyer said, that doesn’t take away the pain of losing Russ, the oldest of three children, who also had two adult children of his own.
“Anybody who knew him knew he had a big heart,” Ted Beyer said of his son. “I just recently lost my sister and now this and, you know, it hurts. It’s just like somebody reached in there and took your heart out.”
The 32-year-old from Elgin, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Aurora, had joined Henry Pratt in November 2018 as HR manager responsible for operations in Aurora, Illinois; Hammond, Indiana; and Denver, the company said. He also was in the meeting where the gunman was being fired.
Parks was married and had an infant son Axel, according to a Facebook post by his wife Abby.
“Every time I’ve closed my eyes over the last twelve hours, I’ve opened them hoping to wake from a terrible dream, but that’s not the case,” Abby posted. “I’m living my worst nightmare. My husband, my love, my best friend.”
Parks was a 2014 graduate of the Northern Illinois University College of Business.
Neighbors remembered Vicente Juarez as a hardworking grandfather and rock of his tight-knit family.
Juarez was shot outside the meeting where the gunman was being fired. Juarez had been employed at Henry Pratt since 2006 and was a member of the shipping and warehouse team in Aurora. He had held several other jobs previously in the warehouse, the company said.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Juarez lived with his wife, adult daughter and four grandchildren in a subdivision in Oswego, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Aurora.
Relatives declined comment, saying they appreciate the support but are still dealing with the shock. Neighbor Julie Zigman called Juarez “the patriarch of the family” and said “everyone looked to him.”
Neighbor Joven Ang said anytime he was working outside Juarez asked him if he needed help. “That’s the kind of person he was,” Ang said.
More than 1,500 attend vigil for Aurora shooting victims
Monday, February 18
AURORA, Ill. (AP) — More than 1,500 people braved snow and freezing drizzle to attend a prayer vigil for five slain co-workers Sunday, two days after they were fatally shot at a suburban Chicago manufacturing plant by a longtime employee who was fired moments earlier.
The Rev. Dan Haas told those who gathered near five white crosses erected for the shooting victims outside Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora that Friday’s “senseless killings” left their families brokenhearted in the city about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.
“All of these were relatively young people — many of them were very young people. We will never know their gifts and talents. Their lives were snuffed out way too short,” he said of the victims, who included a 21-year-old university student on his first day as an intern.
Haas called on God to bring comfort to the families and Aurora. He then read the names and ages of the five shooting victims, prompting waves of sobs and cries from relatives attending the vigil.
The city of Aurora tweeted that about 1,700 people attended the vigil in a snowy lot outside the industrial valve manufacturer where several ministers and a rabbi called for healing.
Authorities said Gary Martin pulled out a gun and began shooting right after hearing that he was being fired from his job of 15 years at the plant for various workplace violations. Martin, 45, was killed in a shootout with officers, ending his deadly rampage. Five police officers and a sixth plant worker were injured in the shooting and are expected to survive.
Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin told the vigil crowd that the city’s residents feel for the victims’ families “with all our hearts.”
“When I thought about the words that I might share with our community and the families of the victims today, I thought to myself that just to simply offer condolences is not enough,” he said. “It doesn’t measure the amount of pain that we feel, for the loss that we’ve experienced in this community.”
Officials: 1 dead, 4 police wounded in Illinois shooting
Friday, February 15
AURORA, Ill. (AP) — At least one person was killed and four police officers wounded when a shooter opened fire at an industrial park in Aurora, Illinois, officials said Friday.
Kane County Coroner Chris Nelson confirmed one person was killed. City spokesman Clayton Muhammad said four officers were wounded and in stable condition, but did not say if they were shot.
Details of the person killed were not released.
The gunman was apprehended, officials said, and the Kane County coroner was at the scene.
Live TV reports showed dozens of first responder vehicles outside a building housing the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, a city of about 200,000 people about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago.
Several ATF teams responded to the shooting and were at the scene, according to the agency’s Chicago spokeswoman, and the FBI said it also was responding.
John Probst, an employee at the Henry Pratt Co. in Aurora, told ABC7 that he ran out of the back door as the shooting unfolded Friday afternoon. Probst says he recognized the gunman and that he works for the company.
He said the gunman had “a pistol with a laser.” Probst said he wasn’t hurt but that another colleague was “bleeding pretty bad.”
The company makes valves for industrial purposes.
Police said the situation had been contained and that there was “no ongoing threat to the public,” according to a statement issued by the Kane County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of the Aurora Police Department.
The statement said the Aurora Police Department was expected to hold a news conference at 5 p.m. CST.
The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on a shooting in Illinois and monitoring the situation as he prepared to depart for a weekend trip to his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
West Aurora School District 129 said on its website that it was keeping all students in their classrooms as police investigate, but that “teaching will continue with reduced movement.”
Spokespeople for Mercy Medical Center and Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora did not immediately return messages about whether either hospital was treating victims from the shooting. No victims had been sent to Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in nearby Downers as of Friday evening, spokeswoman Kate Eller told The Associated Press.
February 15, 2019
Portman Delivers Remarks on Bipartisan Legislation to Address National Park Service Maintenance Backlog
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor highlighting the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation he introduced with Mark Warner (D-VA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Angus King (I-ME) to address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). Portman also discussed two initiatives included in the recently-passed Senate lands package that will benefit Ohio.
Transcript of his remarks can be found below:
“Earlier this week, the Senate passed other legislation called the lands bill, but it’s really about land conservation. It’s about ensuring that we have the ability to protect treasures around our great country. There are two provisions that were in this lands bill that are very important for Ohio. One had to do with something called the Ohio and Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. You’ve probably heard of the Erie Canal, ran through Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and other states. The national heritage area is an 110-mile route on the canal from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Ohio. And it follows the route of the canal along the Cuyahoga River. It is a beautiful, beautiful area. The 87-mile trail is now enjoyed by 2.5 million visitors a year and we wanted to be sure and protect in this legislation. I’ve been there. My family has been there. It is a great place to hike, a great place to bicycle, a great place to go bird watching. Great place to just enjoy time with your family. And it is our history that we’re preserving.
“The Canalway was established as a national heritage area by Congress in 1996. Although Congress has authorized funding for the Ohio Erie Canalway Heritage Area through fiscal year 2021, we had reached a funding cap this year. Which meant we were at risk of losing about $100,000. That may not sound like much in the context of the federal budget, but $100,000 is a big deal to the Canalway. Why? Because we use the federal money to leverage private money and state and local money. And it’s a critical part of making sure that we continue to have this beautiful treasure in our state that brings 2.5 million visitors a year and has a lot of economic benefits to our area. So Senator Brown from Ohio and I have promoted this. We know that this limited federal funding is going to be critical to leveraging those public-private partnerships, helping create 4,200 jobs in the region, and generating $408 million in economic benefits. It is important to have that kind of stable funding in our heritage areas so they can continue to do what they do. Tell our nation’s rich history and provide the recreational opportunities to people I represent. I’m glad that was included in the lands package.
“There was another piece of legislation that was passed. It was a bill that Senator Cardin from Maryland and I had been promoting called the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act and it reauthorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s program that promotes long-term conservation, research, and habitat protection for more than 380 different species of migratory birds. This is a big deal to our state in Ohio. We’re a big bird-watching state. We have a lot of migratory species including our state bird. George Voinovich, whose seat I hold, was a big champion for this program in his time in the Senate. He used to talk about the importance of this from an economic point of view and it’s true. Bird watching brings more than 75,000 visitors a year to just one single birding event in Ohio, for the birders who are listening, you probably know it. It is in northwest Ohio, at the Maumee Bay State Park. It is called the ‘Biggest Week in American Birding.’ Polls have ranked it as the top birding event in the country. There is a study out by Bowling Green that indicates that bird watching around Lake Erie has contributed more than $26 million a year to our local economy. And it has created about 300 jobs. Passage of this legislation is great news for us. This is about protecting the habitat in Ohio but also the habitat where these birds go in the wintertime. They’re snowbirds. They go south so we need to ensure they’re going to come back and ensure we continue to have that economic benefit and enjoy that natural beauty.
“So I commend Senators Murkowski, Cantwell, and Manchin for working to get this legislation through the Senate. I look forward to the House taking it up. It also has a good provision in there for helping our sportsmen, ensuring that we have public access to public lands. So my hope is that can move forward, we can ensure that we begin to deal with the issues that were addressed in that lands package.
“One thing that was not addressed in the lands package that I want to be sure we don’t lose sight of is the condition of our national parks. Now, if you’re going to talk about the treasures of our country, you have to put our national parks right at the top. We have this amazing park system that’s the envy of so many other countries around the world and it is one reason so many foreign visitors come to our country. The national parks now attract 330 million visitors annually. By the way, more visitors in the last few years than in the previous few years. It’s actually going up some. These 330 million visitors come to see 84 million acres of parks and historical sites. Again, it is a huge economic boon to our country because a lot of people coming from outside the country but also for the local areas where people travel to get a beautiful vacation with their family, one they can afford. So we need to do everything we can do to hold our parks up.
“Here’s the problem. We have, over time, funded the parks’ day-to-day operations but not funded their longer-term maintenance problems. So think of a building that has a roof that is leaking. Now, we’re funding the program within that building. But what we’re not funding is the actual reconstruction of that building. It’s called a maintenance backlog. That backlog has grown and grown and grown over the years to the point where we now have a $12 billion maintenance backlog at our parks. And the park funding that we provide every year can’t come close to addressing that backlog. So what some of us have done over the years is tried to bring attention to this and to figure out a way to get funding that was specifically focused on how to ensure that our national parks don’t continue to deteriorate. Again, they’re such a beautiful part of our country, our history, and our culture. We’ve got to preserve that legacy.
“In Ohio, we have eight national parks including Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the top 13 visited parks in the country. We’re very proud of that. Whether it is biking or hiking or fishing or kayaking, 2.2 million visitors go a year to Cuyahoga Valley. I am a one of them. I like to do all of that there. So these parks need to be sure that they can continue to be this treasure for the future. The infrastructure, the water infrastructure, the roads, the buildings, the bridges, they’re all deteriorating to the point where actually some of them can’t be used. If you go to a national park today, you may see that there is a trail closed or a visitor center that can’t be visited. You may see some of the campgrounds are closed or the bathrooms are closed because those facilities have not been able to keep up with their deferred maintenance. So I think we should be putting more money into deferred maintenance and bringing our parks up to speed. And addressing this $12 billion backlog, then the idea of expanding parks. We ought be focused more on the stewardship of the parks we have and that $12 billion is impossible to find within the parks’ budget that we have.
“Think about your own house. If you allowed deferred maintenance to build up, you don’t take care of the roof, as an example, well you get a leak in the roof and then pretty soon your drywall is ruined and I’m pretty sure you find out that your floor is ruined and the costs mount up. That’s what’s happening in our parks. As we’re not fixing the deferred maintenance, we’re creating other costs and problems. I’ve seen it. I’ve gone to four of our larger parks in Ohio to see specifically what their priorities are in terms of deferred maintenance. One is a leaky roof, another is a bridge, another is a part of a railroad track that runs through it that is a tourism railroad track. Another is a seawall on Lake Erie. If that’s not fixed it then causes other damage. So my hope is that we can, on a bipartisan basis, deal with this because these problems compound. They get worse and worse if you don’t deal with them. We can’t wait any longer to address these maintenance needs. So even though we don’t have Yellowstone in Ohio, we don’t have the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, we don’t have huge parks like that, we have an $100 million backlog in our deferred maintenance in our smaller parks in Ohio. $100 million.
“I toured the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with Superintendent Craig Kenkel and Deb Yalanda who is CEO of the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Deb is also president of the National Association of Park Friends Alliance for our parks. They are fantastic, these friends groups. They provide a lot of private funding for the parks, private sector funding, and I think it is an incredibly important part of our overall park funding but they can’t afford these maintenance projects either. More than $45 million at Cuyahoga Valley alone today in unmet maintenance needs. $875,000 for badly needed renovations for their welcome center. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it. They need it. More than $3 million to renovate parking lots that are crumbling, more than $2 million for trail repair for the extensive trail system throughout the park.
“I’ve also been to our other parks in Ohio and seen what some of the deferred maintenance is. At the Perry Victory International Peace Memorial on Lake Erie, $47.7 million is needed in long delayed maintenance which includes millions in repairs to replace cracks in the seawall there to enable the rest of the monument to continue to exist. In the visitors center, it has to be made ADA compatible and needs repairs. So everything that we talk about here in terms of the parks is normally very positive. Democrats, Republicans alike love the parks. People in America love our parks. But I think they are surprised to learn the fact that just underneath the surface our parks are crumbling.
“We’ve got to do more to ensure they’re going to be enjoyed for generations to come. From 2006 until 2017 annual visitation increased by 58 million people. So as these needs are growing, more people are putting more and more pressure on the parks. Keeping up with the aging infrastructure and increased visitation has really stretched the Park Service thin and required them to focus on just the very immediate maintenance needs and postponing or delaying these other projects. We can’t continue to use these Band-Aids. We’ve got to address the underlying issue. I view it as kind of a debt unpaid. This is deferred maintenance that has built up over the last couple of decades that we should have addressed and we didn’t and now we need to go back and do it to ensure it doesn’t incur additional costs.
“This week I’ve reintroduced legislation I’ve worked on in the last three Congresses. This legislation I’ve reintroduced with three of my colleagues, Senator Mark Warner from Virginia, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Senator Angus King of Maine. Two Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent. That makes it tripartisan. It’s called the Restore Our Parks Act. Again it’s a common-sense solution to deal with this $12 billion backlog of long overdue maintenance projects. I want to thank my colleagues for stepping up and working on this together, and we have. We’ve had different proposals out there. Senator Warner came up with this idea that we have of using the offshore and onshore revenue from oil and gas drilling. We combined with a bill that Senator Alexander and Senator King had put forward. There are others who have great ideas. Senator Steve Daines from Montana is one of our strong supporters who is chair of the National Parks Subcommittee at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as he says, grew up in the shadow of Yellowstone Park. We’ve got colleagues on both sides of the aisle who care about this and are involved with it and I want to thank them for all of their hard work. It was Senator Alexander who told me that in the 100-year history of our national parks there has never been a single bill more important than this one. And that’s saying a lot because since Teddy Roosevelt decided to acquire this land for national parks there have been lots of ways we tried to help the parks including recent legislation that I drafted on the centennial of the parks. It helps us get more public-private money into the parks, and that’s good but not enough to handle these incredible $12 billion deferred maintenance costs we have now.
“The legislation creates what’s called a Legacy Restoration Fund which will get half of all the annual energy revenues over the next five years that are not otherwise allocated to be used for priority deferred maintenance projects. This is royalties from onshore and offshore energy development. The Trump administration is doing more of that development so there is more revenue coming in. The bill caps the deposits into the fund at $1.3 billion annually. So no matter what, even if there is a lot more money coming in we’re going to have a cap of $1.3 billion annually which would provide a total of $6.5 billion for deferred maintenance projects over the next five years. I said $12 billion earlier and that’s the amount. But of the urgent priorities, it’s about $6.5 billion. That’s how we came up with that number. What we’re trying to do is at least address the urgent priorities in the next five years using the revenues that are coming into our government from these offshore and onshore energy projects, oil and gas projects. Again, if it’s allocated to something else like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we don’t touch it. It’s just funding that’s not already allocated somewhere else.
“Last year we had 37 cosponsors here in the Senate for this legislation, Republicans and Democrats alike. More than one-third of this chamber. A similar House bill, our House companion bill, had 234 members cosponsoring it, more than the 218 needed, more than the majority. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported this bill out on a bipartisan basis last fall. I was on the committee. We had a good debate about it and reported it out with a 19-4 vote. There’s not a lot that we do around here that’s that bipartisan. We received overwhelming support from conservation and outdoor recreation groups. This includes the National Parks Conservation Association, the Outdoor Industry Alliance, the National Trust for Public Land, Pew Charitable Trusts and others. At our hearing on this legislation last year, the director of the Pew Charitable Trust said, ‘Supporting this bipartisan bill is a wise investment for our National Park System and has overwhelming support from the American public. It generates hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for the economy each year and provides access to world-class recreation opportunities and helps preserve our natural history.’ Yes, the parks do all of that. And that’s why it’s so important that we preserve them and ensure that this long-term problem gets addressed now. I’m proud to introduce legislation in the Senate this week and I’m proud that the House companion bill is being introduced today by Representative Bishop and Representative Kilmer. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill across the finish line. I want to thank the senators who have signed up as cosponsors. I hope we can continue to build support for this and get this common-sense bill done to help preserve our national treasures.”