peter urban / ctnewsjunkie
Sen. Chris Murphy speaks to reporters accompanied by Democrats (L to R) Robin Kelly, Richard Blumenthal, Mike Thompson, Lucy McBath and Ted Deutch in Washington on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 (peter urban / ctnewsjunkie)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is continuing to push Senate Republican leaders to debate universal background-check legislation that passed the House nearly 100 days ago.

The Connecticut Democrat who has championed gun safety legislation since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, spoke on the Senate floor and at a press conference outside the Capitol on Wednesday saying that the least Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can do is to hold a debate on legislation that national polls suggest 97% of voters support.

“The background check legislation has been on the Senate calendar for 100 days. In those 100 days 10,000 people have been shot. In those 100 days there have been over 100 mass shootings. In those 100 days over 700 teenagers have been killed by gunshot. We can’t wait another day for our colleagues to bring the background checks bill for debate,” Murphy said.

Most of those killed were not involved in mass shootings — like Sandy Hook in 2012 or last week’s in Virginia Beach — but were suicides, homicides, or accidental shootings that occur each day. Tightening background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or others deemed dangerous to themselves or others wouldn’t prevent every gun death but it would stop some, Murphy said.

The bill, H.R. 8 “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019,” passed the House on Feb. 27 by a vote of 240-190, mostly along party lines. All but two Democrats voted in favor; eight Republicans supported it.

Murphy said that the Senate should not accept inaction when it comes to gun violence. Debate, he said, would allow the Senate to work out a bill that could have some positive impact.

“A bill that has 97% support should at least get a debate and a vote on the floor of the Senate,” he said.

Murphy was joined at the press conference by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, and four other House Democrats who have championed gun safety: Reps. Robin Kelly of Illinois, Ted Deutch of Florida, Lucy McBath of Georgia, and Mike Thompson of California.

Blumenthal said that Republicans who oppose gun safety legislation can’t dodge the issue because a growing number of American voters will hold them accountable in the 2020 elections.

“It will judge harshly colleagues who failed to vote. Republican colleagues cannot stand by idly while their leader protects them from taking a vote on this topic,” Blumenthal said.

The Democrats blame McConnell for not bringing the bill up in an effort to protect his Republican caucus from casting a controversial vote before re-election.

“Senator McConnell, do your job and take up this bill and make Americans safer,” urged Thompson, the author of the background check legislation and head of the House Gun Violence Prevention Caucus.

Kelly suggested McConnell has blood on his hands, saying: “His inaction on gun violence is keeping the Grim Reaper busy.”

Deutch complained that in “protecting his Republican colleagues from having to take a tough vote,” McConnell “puts at risk the lives of American kids around the country.”