HARTFORD, CT — It’s been six years since the U.S. Senate declined to vote to expand background checks on all gun sales, but Connecticut’s delegation is hopeful that increasing public pressure, and the results of the past election will convince lawmakers it’s time to act.
“We are at a historic turning point,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday at a Legislative Office Building press conference.
He said the U.S. House plans to vote on two measures either Wednesday or Thursday this week. He’s hoping the U.S. Senate will take up the measure next.
“Illegal sales can be stopped only if there are background checks,” Blumenthal said.
Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance, admitted that getting a Senate vote will be a little more challenging.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Murray said.
H.R. 8 mandates federal background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions and H.R. 1112 extends the deadline for federal background checks from three business days to as many as 20.
Jeremy Stein, executive director of CAGV, said that it’s not a debate between gun owners and those who don’t own guns.
“It’s a debate about common sense,” Stein said.
He said even reasonable gun owners can agree to support universal background checks.
But groups like the National Rifle Association are opposed to the legislation.
They say H.R. 8 criminalizes the private transfer of firearms and the other, H.R. 1112, arbitrarily delays a firearm purchase for over 20 days.
“These are Pelosi-Bloomberg gun control bills designed to score political points, and they won’t have any impact on crime or criminals, don’t address America’s broken mental health system and don’t address the underlying causes of violence,” the NRA says in a script it gives its supporters looking to call their representatives.
Blumenthal said the measures are bipartisan because the vast majority of the American people want it.
He said H.R. 1112, which is also being called the “Charleston loophole” because it allowed Dylann Roof to purchase a gun and kill nine African-Americans at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, in 2015, despite pending felony drug charges against him.
Blumenthal said the House will pass the measure and help create “momentum” going into the Senate.
He said the more votes they have in the House, the better their chances are in the Senate.
“Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t do it,” Blumenthal said. “We came so close the last time we tried.”
In 2013, similar legislation failed to get the support it needed in the Senate. The measure, at a time when Democrats controlled the chamber, fell four votes short of the super majority it needed to pass. It was defeated 54-46.
Freshman lawmaker U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes said when she was planning to run for Congress she asked herself if there was an issue she was willing to lose the race over—arming teachers.
Hayes, the 2016 national teacher of the year, said she doesn’t believe in arming teachers.
“I thought what happened her in Connecticut was the inflection point,” Hayes said. “Where the whole country would sit still and say ‘we have to fix this’.”
It’s been six years since that inflection point.
Hayes, who teared up when she recounted the story, said when the bill passed committee last week at 11 p.m. she left the hearing room and called former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty to let her know it passed.
“Gun violence was on the ballot last November and gun violence prevention won,” Blumenthal said.