U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy called the U.S. Congress an accomplice Friday following Thursday’s mass shooting at an Oregon community college because of its failure to act on gun control legislation.
“I don’t care how many members of Congress send out tweets saying they’re sorry or they extend their sympathies,” Murphy said. “You aren’t sorry. You aren’t truly sympathetic if you’re not willing to act.”
The senators were in Hartford on Friday to tout legislation that would close a “loophole” in the Brady Act, which they say has allowed 15,729 people who should not have been able to purchase guns to do so anyway. The senators said the figure is based on FBI statistics compiled between 2010 and 2014.
Blumenthal called on House Speaker John Boehner to bring gun control legislation up for a vote before he leaves at the end of the month. “Congress has been complicit in failing to act. The time for expressions of grief and regret are over. What we need is action,” he said.
Blumenthal said he will introduce the “fairly modest bill” to the Senate next week. It strikes a provision in the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act that allows gun retailers to go through with a sale after 72 hours if a background check hasn’t come back yet. It was introduced in the House in July by U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, following the killing of nine people in a Charleston church the month prior.
“Tragically, the Charleston shooter was allowed to purchase a gun even though the FBI had not completed his background check,” Clyburn said in a press release. “This should never be acceptable.”
Blumenthal and Murphy were joined Friday by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, gun control advocates, and members of law enforcement including Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe. Blumenthal said the press conference was planned weeks before a mass shooting the previous day at a college in Roseburg, Ore. — but it wasn’t a coincidence.
“Since Newtown, there have been 142 school shootings. So we could have scheduled it literally any week and the chances are that the day before there might well have been a mass shooting in a school or in a church or somewhere people should be safe,” Blumenthal said.
U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics show the Brady Act has prevented more than 2.4 million people from buying guns since it was enacted in 1993.
The act prohibits licensed dealers from selling guns to anyone with a felony conviction, a fugitive warrant, recent history of drug use, illegal immigration status, a domestic violence restraining order, or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.
According to Esty, gun violence isn’t like natural disasters that can be predicted or controlled; it’s a solvable problem that Congress has a responsibility to address.
“We called on John Boehner in a letter filed yesterday morning to ask him to call up the background check bill, little knowing that in a matter of hours there would be yet another shooting,” she said. “This is a man-made tragedy we can and must stop. No more moments of silence. It’s time for hours of action.”
Scott Wilson, president of the gun rights group Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the background check problem has already been addressed at the state level as part of sweeping gun control legislation enacted in the wake of the shooting deaths of 20 elementary school students and six educators in Newtown.
He said removing the 72-hour timeframe for a background check opens up the potential for abuse.
“If you give them carte blanche to take their time to complete the background check or not complete the background check, it’s going to be chaos,” Wilson said. “I think certain bureaucrats who do not wish for law abiding citizens to possess firearms will use that to their advantage.”
The law does not include a mechanism to prevent a background check from dragging on, according to Wilson. “Many, not all, will take their sweet time and violate the due process rights of law abiding citizens,” he said.
According to the FBI, the agency’s background checkers continue to look for the information necessary to make a final determination until the transaction is purged prior to 90 days.
Wilson said the propensity in the state to create obstacles to gun ownership can be seen in the pistol permit process, which includes an 8-week timeframe for approving or denying an application that is regularly ignored.
But Murphy argued that the legislation is a common-sense approach to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
“The tiny inconvenience of having to wait a little bit longer is worth the payoff of hundreds if not thousands of lives saved,” Murphy said.
Miranda Pacchiana, a Sandy Hook resident and member of the Newtown Action Alliance, recounted her community’s devastation following the 2012 school shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.
“Tragically, we all know that Newtown is not an outlier, far from it. Communities all across the country, more every day, live in the aftermath of gun violence and its horrors. This is in part because people have easy access to weapons of mass murder and they will continue to create more Newtowns and Roseburgs and Auroras and Littletons and the list … goes on and on,” she said through tears.