U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal visited the state Capitol on Friday to discuss the future of gun control after a bipartisan compromise to extend background checks was defeated in Washington last week.
“The defeat of the gun violence bill last week in Washington was shocking and disgraceful,” Murphy said of the legislation proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. The proposal would have extended background checks to gun show purchases and Internet sales. “I can say that I didn’t see it coming,” Murphy said of the defeat.
The bill was voted down 54-46, but Blumenthal and Murphy are optimistic that it will be back to the Senate floor by the end of the calendar year.
“This issue isn’t going away. We aren’t going away and the Newtown families aren’t going away,” Murphy said. “The gun lobby won a round last week, but they’re not going to win this fight in the long run.
Since the legislation’s defeat, Murphy and Blumenthal have been looking for a way to get five more Senators to vote yes without weakening the legislation, which the two already consider to be weaker than they would prefer.
While Blumenthal and Murphy claimed they have no intentions of watering-down the bill, they explained that “minor, minor changes” might be made to it before it is brought back to the Senate.
One of those changes could be the exemption of background checks for “very rural” gun sales. This exemption would apply to residents of rural areas without convenient access to gun dealers, which is about one to two percent of the U.S. population, according to Murphy.
“We are not going to entertain a process that would substantially or materially weaken the bill, but if there are narrow exceptions to the background check requirement that will bring some senators on board, we’re going to look at those,” Murphy said.
Other changes to the bill would include making record-keeping requirements available electronically, which would reduce the cost and intrusiveness without diminishing the collection of the data, according to Blumenthal.
But, if changes to the bill are not enough, the two senators are hoping the political pressure being applied in the home states of those who voted against the bill will help change their minds.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, has seen her approval rating drop 15 points after voting against the bill. Seventy-five percent of New Hampshire voters support background checks, and half say that her “no” vote negatively impacts whether they will vote for her in a future election, according to Public Policy Polling. However, another poll from the University of New Hampshire found no change in her 50 percent approval rating since February.
On the other hand, Toomey is seeing his highest approval rating yet at 48 percent, which is five percent higher than what he was polling a month ago, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
Blumenthal and Murphy are still convinced the American public supports background checks.
“More important than any of the senators saying it, is that America will say it,” Blumenthal said, citing a Washington Post-ABC poll which found 90 percent of Americans support background checks. “The United States’ Senate said ‘no’ to America, but America will not take ‘no’ for an answer.”