WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal called Wednesday for their Republican counterparts, as well as President Donald Trump, to step up and take action to prevent further gun violence in the United States.
During the course of an hour’s worth of speeches on the Senate floor, Murphy and Blumenthal shared stories of gun violence victims while urging Republican colleagues to support and pass gun safety legislation that includes expanded background checks for firearm purchases and implementation of so-called “red flag” laws.
“[We] are desperate for our colleagues to wake up and recognize that the time for action to quell the epidemic of gun violence in this country is now,” said Murphy. “It was [time] also a year ago and six years ago. It was also [time] nearly seven years ago after the shooting in my state of Connecticut, which felled 20 little six- and seven-year-olds attending first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
Murphy, who said that he discussed expanding background checks for commercial sales of firearms with President Donald Trump during a 40-minute telephone call alongside Sens. Joe Manchin, D-Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., Wednesday morning, appealed to the president to stop endorsing the position of the gun lobby, which has not supported expansion of gun control measures.
“The status quo is not acceptable to Americans in this country,” Murphy said. “People are sick and tired of feeling unsafe when they walk into a Walmart. Parents are heartbroken when their children come home and tell them about the latest shooter drill that they participated in.”
Murphy said that he was uncertain whether President Trump was onboard with universal background checks, given the president’s vacillating support for gun control measures since he took office in 2017. Trump has previously voiced support for gun control measures such as expanded background checks only to walk back that support following meetings with members of the gun lobby.
Blumenthal emphasized the importance of gun laws that transcend state boundaries, recalling the impact of gun control measures adopted by Connecticut in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The lesson of Connecticut is not only that those steps have reduced gun violence, including homicide, but also that states with the strongest gun laws are still at the mercy of the ones with the weakest ones because guns have no respect for state boundaries,” said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal pointedly called for Trump to “get out of the way” if he could not take the lead on supporting gun control measures.
“Mr. President, you must not only come to the table, but lead,” Blumenthal said. “And if you will not lead, get out of the way because we have an obligation to move forward and take advantage of this historic opportunity.”
Both Murphy and Blumenthal acknowledged that addressing gun violence in the United States requires a multifaceted approach that cannot be encompassed in a single legislative initiative.
The senators’ latest appeals to Republicans and the president come after more than 50 people died in mass shootings in Texas and Ohio during the month of August alone.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated last week that he is willing to bring gun control legislation to the Senate floor, Democratic efforts to do so have stalled — in part because McConnell has previously stated that he would only bring measures to the floor that have Trump’s support.
A universal background checks bill passed by the House with bipartisan support earlier this year, for example, has yet to come to the Senate floor.
Wednesday’s floor speeches came just one day after the House Judiciary Committee passed three gun control measures that effectively address what Murphy, Blumenthal and other Senate Democrats endorsed. Those bills — H.R. 1186, the Keep Americans Safe Act; H.R. 1236, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019; and H.R. 2708, the Disarm Hate Act — collectively ban high-capacity ammunition magazines with ten or more rounds, support local efforts to temporarily remove access to firearms from individuals who present a danger to themselves or others, and prohibit individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from buying and possessing guns.
Following Tuesday’s passage in the House Judiciary Committee, all three bills will head to the House floor for a vote before the full chamber.
It remains unclear whether there will be enough Republican support in the Senate to take up any of those bills should they pass the House later this year.