Members of Connecticut’s delegation in Washington have been vocal, repeatedly and often, in their support for gun control since the 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook. The Oct. 1 mass shooting at a community college near Roseburg, Oregon only served to make those calls for gun control louder, with members in both the Senate and the House proposing laws and speaking vociferously on the Congressional floor.
Most recently, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District — along with California Rep. Mike Thompson — introduced a bill that would create a “Select Committee of the U.S. House to study gun violence.”
“By my count we have held 16 moments of silence on the House floor to honor those taken from us by gun violence since the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” Esty said on the floor of the House last week. “Sixteen times we in this House have come together and bowed our heads. And then refused to do anything substantial to prevent gun violence.”
The new select committee, should it be empanelled, would examine and make recommendations on the causes of mass shootings, methods to improve background checks, gun violence rates, and “the implementation of effective gun violence prevention laws in accordance with the Second Amendment to the Constitution.”
Thompson, who is chairman of the already existing House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said in a release that “there have been nearly 280 mass shootings since Newtown and Congress has done nothing. No votes have been cast. No bills have been debated. No proposals have even been considered. This Select Committee can change that.”
“We’re offering Republicans a seat at the table,” Thompson said. “We want to hear their thoughts and ideas. We want to work with them.”
Of the 24 co-sponsors of the bill when it was introduced, none were Republicans.
Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy also addressed the issue of gun violence, telling members of the Senate last week that since the massacre in Sandy Hook, he and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal “have become evangelical in our belief that this massacre has to stop.”
“This silence from Congress has become complicity,” Murphy said.
Blumenthal and Murphy both took part in a press conference last week backing legislation from Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that would make it harder for a gun purchase to go through before a federal background check is completed.
That legislation, which has yet to be introduced, is similar to a bill promoted in 2013 by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that failed by six votes.
The new push for gun control in Congress may be the result of a plea from the White House. Following the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Oregon, President Barack Obama said gun control “is something we should politicize.”
“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America,” Obama said. “We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations, doesn’t make sense.”