Twenty-four hours after the ink dried on Connecticut’s gun violence prevention legislation, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were on the steps of Hartford City Hall preparing to call upon Congress to pass similar measures.
But it won’t be easy. They need 60 votes in the Senate to proceed with a debate on legislation that would expand criminal background checks to all gun purchases and put an end to gun trafficking. An assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines seem out of reach, but both remain hopeful those measures will also get a vote.
“I’m increasingly hopeful that the president’s very powerful advocacy, the voices of victims and ordinary citizens, and the example of Connecticut’s law will provide momentum and impetus we need,” Blumenthal said.
About 14 family members of the 26 victims from the Sandy Hook shooting have been meeting with members of Congress to lobby for tougher gun prevention measures.
But there are others, like Mark Mattioli, who earlier this week, appeared at a National Rifle Association press conference on their new school security program. Mattioli’s son, James, was one of the 20 youngest victims at Sandy Hook.
In January, Mattioli testified in Hartford where he told lawmakers he didn’t believe they should be writing any more gun legislation. Instead, he wanted them to focus on the laws already on the books and focus on mental health.
“I don’t care if you named it ‘James’ law,’ I don’t want (another law),” he said. “I think there’s much more promise for a solution in identifying, researching, and creating solutions along the lines of mental health.”
Asked if the difference of opinion among the families will hurt his argument to his colleagues in Congress, Blumenthal said the Newtown families are all individuals.
“They are thinking, grieving, living individuals,” Blumenthal said. “No one would expect that they are going to be one unanimous voice. They’re human beings and they have differences.”
But Blumenthal remained optimistic that the legislation will have the 60 votes necessary to reach the floor.
“As the President of the United States has said, the victims of Newtown, Tucson, and Aurora, and Virginia Tech, and all across the country, on the streets of Hartford — the mothers you’ve just heard — deserve a vote,” Blumenthal said.
But Murphy maintained that the National Rifle Association doesn’t want it to reach the floor of the Senate because it fears what would happen if there was a vote.
“The NRA wants a filibuster on this bill because they don’t want it to come to a vote on the floor,” Murphy said. “They know that Republicans are fearful of the political consequences of continuing to be obstructionists. It’s very hard to get Republicans to sit down and negotiate a background check provision or a ban on high-capacity magazines, but many of them will support it if we bring it to the floor.”
He said Connecticut’s bipartisan support for stricter gun laws was an important step toward getting something passed at the federal level.
“We hope that this week is a turning point in the national discussion about gun violence,” Murphy said. “Because we’ve shown here in Connecticut that both Democrats and Republicans can work together to try and reduce the incidents of mass violence like we saw in Newtown and the unfortunate, everyday, routine gun violence that we see on the streets of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.”
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit the state on Monday to speak at the University of Hartford. The president is expected to use Connecticut as an example for the nation and to encourage Congress to vote on a measure.
Obama visited Newtown just a few days after the shooting, which he called the “worst day” in his presidency.
Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra, a Republican, said she didn’t attend the bill signing ceremony Thursday because she was at the birthday celebration of Ana Marquez-Greene, who would have turned 7 if she hadn’t been killed by the gunman on Dec. 14.
Llodra shared that she received a letter from a constituent who didn’t appreciate her support of gun violence prevention measures.
The letter, according to Llorda, accused her of “making the issues too personal, too emotional. And what I should really focus on was protecting the rights of law abiding citizens to bear arms.”
Llodra said she acknowledges that many good citizens have done no harm with their firearms and Second Amendment rights are important and need to be protected. “For me, however, it is the loss of innocent lives that is exactly the point that needs to drive the conversation,” she said.