Christine Stuart photo

U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said they may have lost the first vote on expanding background checks to all gun purchases, but they’re going to win the last vote.

Connecticut’s two Senators returned to Hartford Friday — the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting — to talk about building momentum for a rare second vote on gun control.

“It is not very often that you lose a vote and get a second chance within the same calendar year. Gun violence may be the exception,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal and Murphy said they’ve been having discussions about bringing the bill back for a vote as soon as they have the 60 Senators needed to move forward. The two said there is about a half dozen Senators on both sides of the aisle searching for amendments that will help them clinch the necessary number of votes. 

“We are amassing and mobilizing grassroots support and money that will enable us to stand up and speak out and stop the NRA from being the schoolyard bully that scares everyone else off,” Blumenthal said at a Capitol press conference. “Six-months ago gun violence control was thought to be politically untouchable. We’re on a course now that’s politically unstoppable.”

The two Senators are trying to wrap up discussions about the bill this month, but “the reality is we still need some time to bring on five more votes on board,” Murphy said.

The April 17 vote to debate the expansion of background checks fell four votes short of the super majority it needed to pass. It was defeated 54-46.

Murphy said it’s likely they will revisit the bill after the summer recess, which means sometime after Labor Day. There’s a chance it could happen in July, but it’s more realistic that it would be after Labor Day since most of the summer will be dominated by the immigration debate.

“The calendar’s packed, but Harry Reid has been clear. The minute we have 60 votes he will bring this bill back up for debate on the floor,” Murphy said.

Blumenthal believes that after Labor Day as they approach the one-year mark there will be even more momentum in favor of expanding gun background checks.

”Ninety-percent of Americans are with us and history is on our side,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said it’s difficult to express the passion Reid, the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, feels about this issue. He said Reid’s father committed suicide with a gun, so the issue is personal for him.

“He brings to this issue the passion and determination of a lifetime,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal and Murphy said the reasons there’s even discussions around a second vote is the new organizations that have cropped up and are spending money against opponents of the measure. Groups such as Americans for Responsible Solutions led by Gabby Giffords, the former Congresswoman who was shot in the head while holding an event outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona.

“The public reaction to this has been strong, and the contributions flowing into these groups has been large,” Murphy said.

He said these discussions are happening because there are Senators who cast votes with the NRA and had always gotten away with it. But this time things are different. Now there’s money on the other side of the issue that’s making them think twice, Murphy said.

Those who voted “no” in April can save themselves from a barrage of ads “if they cast a different vote later this year,” Murphy said.

But the NRA claimed victory this week in Nevada when its Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have expanded background checks in that state. The NRA claims it’s a defeat for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group, “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in that state trying to pass the bill.

Progress on Sandy Hook

Murphy was able to get an education bill amended during the committee process this week that would allow construction of Sandy Hook Elementary School eligible for federal funds.

School construction is traditionally funded at the local and state level and never before have federal funds been used for this purpose.

In the meantime, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that he will release the first $750,000 in bonds funds for the design of the new school building. The money is expected to be released by the state Bond Commission next Friday, June 21.

Earlier this month, the General Assembly approved legislation authorizing up to $50 million in bonding for the school’s construction. That funding will be taken up for final consideration by the members of the state Bond Commission in the coming months as the project progresses and its needs are assessed.


Connect with Christine: