Connecticut’s U.S. senators were unapologetic Friday for opposing legislation — that would have aided Democrats facing difficult re-elections — in an effort to debate domestic violence and gun control policy.
During a Hartford press conference, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy explained their recent procedural vote against the so-called “Sportsmen’s Bill,” a now-defeated piece of legislation that would have expanded hunting and fishing on federal land.
According to Politico, the bill was a “political boon” to Democrats facing re-election battles in conservative states like North Carolina, where its Democratic co-sponsor — Sen. Kay Hagan — is seeking re-election. However, the bill fell victim to a battle over amendments on gun control and although many were proposed by Republicans, Blumenthal and Murphy tried amending the bill as well.
“We may not be the most popular senators among our colleagues today but we took a stand to make sure that there would be no expansion — none — of firearms on federal property . . . without changes in federal law to better protect people from the ongoing scourge of gun violence and domestic violence in this country,” Blumenthal said Friday.
The senators wanted to amend the bill with legislation that sought to prevent people who are the subject of temporary restraining orders from obtaining guns. Although the law bars the subjects of permanent restraining orders from possessing firearms, it does not apply to temporary orders. Blumenthal has named that bill for Lori Jackson, an Oxford resident who was shot to death by her estranged husband in May. Jackson had a temporary restraining order against her husband at the time.
Murphy said the debate over the Sportsmen’s Bill was their best chance of getting the restraining order bill passed.
“Our message was clear this week — if the senate was going to spend a week debating gun policy, then we should be talking about how to reduce gun violence, not expand gun use on federal lands. Time is precious . . . and if we have a week to talk about guns we should talk about saving lives rather than increasing gun rights,” he said.
Murphy said he agreed with some of the provisions of the Sportsmen’s Bill and considered the expansion of gun use on federal land to be relatively minor. Blumenthal said that opposition from he and Murphy was not the only reason the bill failed.
“This is not — here’s a newsflash — the first time a fairly innocuous bill or maybe even a good bill has failed because of an inability to compromise on the amendment process,” he said. “. . . The effort, increasingly as you know, is to load amendments onto a bill that looks like it may be going somewhere.”
Although both senators have been critical in the past of lawmakers using the senate’s procedural rules to halt the progress of legislation, they said their amendment was pertinent to the subject matter of the Sportsmen’s Bill.
“There are very legitimate bills that come before Congress that are held up for procedural reasons as a means of avoiding the substance,” Murphy said. “We truly objected to the process in this case. Our objection was that the senate was going to spend a week debating a bill that increased gun rights rather than spending a week on a bill that addressed gun violence.”
Both senators said they hope the chamber’s leadership will allow more time to debate the restraining order bill after Congress recesses next month. Murphy said they have several Democratic cosponsors for the legislation, but believes it will pass if given a floor vote.
“Ultimately, while Republicans may not co-sponsor it, I do not believe they are going to vote to effectively arm-up domestic abusers,” he said.