In his first floor speech since taking office, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy accused Congress of “sitting on its hands” for 20 years as the nation became so accustomed to gun violence that “it’s just background noise.”
Murphy, who took office less than a month after a gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, devoted his first floor speech entirely to gun violence. He said that as a lawmaker, “sometimes there are issues that find you.”
He said that thousands have been killed as a result of gun violence in the nearly four months since the Newtown massacre.
“It’s happening every day. And this country has gotten so callously used to gun violence that it’s just raindrops. It’s just background noise,” he said.
Murphy said members of Congress put too much stock in the positions of the national gun lobby, specifically the National Rifle Associations, which he said does not represent the interests of most gun owners. He said the organization is financed by the firearms industry.
“The NRA doesn’t speak for gun owners like it used to, and yet we listen to that organization more than we should. Ten years ago the NRA came here and argued for universal background checks in the wake of Columbine. Today they oppose those background checks” he said.
He said Congress also has “really botched” the discussion about the constitutional rights at the core of the gun debate. People often refer to the right to bear arms as an “unalienable right” or a “God-given right,” he said.
“Of course the constitution makes no such claim. The idea of an ‘unalienable right,’ that’s actually found in the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “. . . Liberty isn’t about having any gun you want, anytime you want it.”
Even if some people do consider gun ownership part of liberty, Murphy said they have to ask themselves whether those liberties are really infringed by the suggestion that some weapons are too dangerous to own.
“How gravely do we really risk tyranny when we just moderately restrain the size of a legally purchasable clip,” he said. “If liberty is really our chief concern, then protecting the lives of innocent little kids has got to weigh pretty favorably against marginally constraining a weapon’s payload.”
Murphy spent part of his 20 minute speech disputing the idea that guns make people safer. He said Nancy Lanza, the mother of Newtown gunman, likely kept firearms to protect herself. But she was murdered by her son with one of her own weapons.
Later he referred to an incident which occurred in Henan, China on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. There, an attacker wielding a knife attacked a group of school children.
“In Newtown, all 20 kids who were attacked died. In China, all 23 kids who were attacked lived. Why? Because in Henan the assailant had a knife, not a gun that could spray six bullets per second,” he said.
Murphy ended his remarks before 11 a.m. by discussing some of the young victims of the Newtown shooting. Around 12:40 p.m., he came back to the floor of the Senate, and began talking again about the victims of gun violence in Newtown and other places across the country. He spoke for about an hour before yielding the floor and saying he would be back later in the day.
“I’m going to be down here as much as I can today and tomorrow and next week, telling these stories,” he said.