U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said Connecticut’s ability to act swiftly on comprehensive gun control could affect national policy, and its failure to act would also send a message.
Gun control will be the first non-budget issue the U.S. Senate tackles after the spring recess. Blumenthal and Murphy said their colleagues have been asking what steps Connecticut has taken in the wake of the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators.
“It would be a tragedy if Connecticut didn’t pass a law that was the strongest in the nation,” Murphy said at a press conference Monday in Blumenthal’s Hartford office.
“I’m asked by my colleagues: What’s happening in Connecticut?” Blumenthal said. “It’s not only as a practical result that Connecticut could be impacted by sales here, but also as a symbol — Connecticut will be watched by the whole country.”
It’s been more than 100 days since the Dec. 14 shooting.
“Connecticut’s failure to act in the next two weeks will be a detriment when we go to the floor,” Blumenthal said. “On the other hand, if Connecticut can act within the next two weeks it will provide a very powerful momentum. It will speak volumes about determination and dedication here to making sure our nation is safer.”
Blumenthal said there has been enough time for Connecticut to act and it should act.
Connecticut’s legislative leaders continue to work behind closed-doors to craft a legislative response to the tragedy, but no final bill has been completed.
Adam Joseph, a spokesman for Senate President Donald Williams, said it would be premature to say when a vote would occur.
“They continue to meet and continue to make progress,” Joseph added.
The results of those negotiations will be watched closely.
Murphy said if the result of Connecticut negotiations is that “we don’t pass a ban on high-capacity ammunition, then the height of irony in the wake of Newtown would be that Connecticut would become the epicenter of sales for the very type of ammunition that lead to that tragedy.”
“There are a lot of Republicans and Democrats who do not support an assault weapons ban, but who will vote for a ban on high-capacity magazines,” Murphy said.
He said New York passed a strong ban in January and Connecticut has to pass a strong ban so that it doesn’t become a haven for high capacity magazines.
Meanwhile, Blumenthal and Murphy said strengthening Connecticut’s gun laws may not make anyone any safer because this is an issue that really needs to be tackled at the national level.
“The problem really is that state boundaries are porous to illegal trafficking,” Blumenthal said. “If the AR-15 or military-style assault weapons are banned only in Connecticut, there is still the possibility that they may be brought across state lines.”
So even though it would help in political negotiations the practical impact may not carry that much weight.
“There’s no single solution. No single state can do it alone,” Blumenthal said. “Connecticut can have the strongest and best laws in the country, but our borders are still porous.”
He added that if a national ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were in effect on Dec. 14, some of the 20 children and six adults killed by the gunman might be alive today.
The most important piece of the assault weapons ban is the ban on high-capacity magazine clips, Murphy said.
Blumenthal called the NRA’s robocalls to Connecticut cities and towns, especially Newtown “repulsive and repugnant.” He said the NRA’s urging that families in Newtown oppose strong gun control measures is the “height of arrogance and insensitivity.”
Blumenthal has used a blog post to call upon residents to call the NRA to get them to stop.
The Courant’s Capitol Watch blog has audio of the robocall.
With respect to the calls being made to Newtown residents, Murphy said, “I think it’s disgusting.”
He said he also thinks the calls to Newtown are intentional.
“I don’t think it’s a mistake that the NRA is making calls into Newtown,” Murphy said. “I think they’re doing it to stir their pot. I think they’re doing it to pick at a scab. And they should stop today.”