Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal with gun control advocates (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT —Even though Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators have tried and failed in the past to pass legislation to strengthen federal background checks on gun owners they are giving it another shot this year and believe 2019 may finally be the year.

U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, surrounded by gun control advocates such as Sandy Hook Promise and Moms Demand Action, held a press conference Monday at the Legislative Office Building to announce they will be re-introducing the “Background Check Expansion Act,” when the Senate reconvenes.

Murphy said it will the first bill he introduces in the 116th Congress.

Murphy first introduced the background-check gun bill after a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown in December of 2012.

He also tried again, and failed after holding a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in 2016 after a gunman killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub in Orlando, at the time the deadliest mass shooting in U.S.  history.

And he tried again, and failed, a year later after a gunman opened fire from a hotel room and killed 58 people attending an outside country music concert in Las Vegas – now the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history.

“I feel like this is the year,” Murphy said.

Noting that the Democratic Party controls the House of Representatives, Murphy emphatically predicated: “It is going to pass the House of Representatives as early as this month.”

In fact, Murphy said, he believes the bill will be raised in the House on Tuesday.

“It is going to be difficult in the Senate,” Murphy conceded. “We are going to have to find a dozen Republicans” to join Democrats in favor of the legislation.

But, Murphy went on, he believes his Republican colleagues will be swayed by the fact that many NRA-backed candidates didn’t do well in the November elections.

“The political pressure (to vote for background checks) is increasingly hard for politicians to ignore,” Murphy claimed.

“Every single day 90 people die from a gunshot wound,” Murphy said. “Every single one is preventable.”

He said that background checks are “backed by 97 percent of people in this country.”

“Puppies don’t have 97 percent approval,” Murphy said.

The NRA opposes the idea.

“So-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law,” Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the NRA, said. “Instead of looking for effective solutions that will deal with root cause of violent crime and save lives anti-gun politicians would rather score political points and push ineffective legislation that doesn’t stop criminals from committing crimes.”

After the Sandy Hook shooting, the Connecticut General Assembly passed new gun laws that placed limits on the the size of magazines and the types of assault weapons that can be sold in Connecticut.

But seven years later, Congress has yet to approve a substantive gun control measure, even the least controversial of those gun control advocates have proposed – a bill that would expand FBI background checks for all gun purchases.

Murphy’s bill, co-sponsored by Blumenthal and other Democratic senators, would close the “gun show” loophole, which allows gun sellers at these events to avoid running information about potential buyers through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

The “Background Check Expansion Act” would require background checks for all sales, including online purchases and those collectors make out of their homes.

Private sellers would be required to visit a licensed firearms dealer to run the NICS check before a gun sale is finalized.

The bill would exempt from background checks sales between law enforcement officers, temporary loans of firearms for hunting and sporting events and gifts of a firearm to an immediate family member or for immediate self-defense.

Murphy said the legislation is badly needed because of the majority of gun buyers buy their guns either online or at gun stores. He also claimed that the process of a background check, criticized by some as cumbersome, “takes about 90 seconds.”

Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson said gun control laws in place are sufficient.

“Senators Murphy and Blumenthal are ignoring the fact that background checks are done for every sale through federally licensed dealers throughout the United States,” said Wilson. “What our two senators are actually trying to do, is create is a defacto federal registration database with this

“Since it is currently against the law for prohibited persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, law enforcement should focus on enforcing these laws to disincentivize criminals from buying firearms,” Wilson added.

Blumenthal said that even though Connecticut has taken its own action on toughening gun ownership laws, “We are at the mercy of the states that have no background checks.”

“News flash: guns have no respect for state borders,” Blumenthal said. Connecticut,” he repeated, “is at the mercy of states like South Carolina and Georgia that don’t have background checks.”

Blumenthal, like Murphy, expressed confidence that the tide is turning on background check legislation.

He said he, too, like Murphy believes that the momentum to stop the bill from getting to the Senate floor and passing will be difficult to stop once it passes the House.

“I think we will have the votes this year because our Republican colleagues are going to want to show they are on the right side of history,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal also cautioned that while passing background check legislation is an important first step in the gun control movement it is by no means the only thing that should be done to stem gun violence in the country.

But, he said you have to start somewhere, and he even offered a quick slogan that the big crowd in the room warmly applauded.

Blumenthal said: “No (background) check, no sale!”