Connecticut senators push for gun control

Yale Daily News

Following high-profile mass shootings at El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this summer, Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are spearheading the push for gun control legislation.

After the two high-profile shootings, there seemed to be political potential to change the nation’s gun laws in a significant way. Following the tragedies, President Trump expressed his openness to negotiations for a compromise bill on the issue, which has historically been favored mostly by Democrats.

Murphy and Blumenthal have taken charge in the Senate in their advocacy for gun control bills. While the senators were reacting in part to the recent shooting and the political opportunity it may have presented, both have been staunch advocates for stricter gun laws for most of their careers, especially following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Blumenthal, who served as the state’s attorney general from 1991 to 2011, told the News that he has always been inspired by the potential to save lives.

“What prompted me then and what motivates me now is saving as many lives as possible as quickly as possible,” Blumenthal said. “The tragedy in Sandy Hook transformed many of our lives by showing us first hand the terrible human toll and tragedy in a very immediate way.”

Five years after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Murphy penned an op-ed in the Hartford Courant about the shooting’s lasting influence on him and his policies.

Murphy is taking the lead in negotiations for a background checks bill which he has introduced in every Congress since 2013. At a press conference in August, Murphy said there was now a greater opportunity to pass a meaningful bill in the aftermath of the shootings. However, there still remained less than a 50 percent chance of any bill passing the Senate and becoming law, he speculated. While Murphy said he was optimistic that talks had begun with the president about potential legislation, he also voiced caution that Trump might switch positions, as he did shortly after the Parkland shooting in 2018.

“Now I am skeptical that these efforts are going to bear fruit. I think it’s very hard to negotiate with this White House when the president’s public positions seem to change by the day … I’m going to try. I think it’s my obligation as the primary sponsor of the background checks bill in the Senate to do so, but also because the stakes are so high,” Murphy said in the press conference.

In an interview with the News, Blumenthal said he recently started negotiating potential gun control legislation with the president and some Republican senators. Aside from Murphy’s bill, Blumenthal said he hopes to pass legislation to ban assault weapons, ghost guns and high-capacity magazines; require strict gun storage safety; and allow for a process to remove guns from those legally deemed unfit to own one.

Blumenthal echoed Murphy’s sentiment that the president’s lack of support is the main obstacle to significant progress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., won’t bring gun legislation to the floor of the Senate unless he knows the president is supporting it, Blumenthal added. He also said the National Rifle Association maintains a large influence on the president and is able to persuade him to oppose any gun control bill.

“The main obstacle has been the gun lobby and the NRA which spreads misinformation and distortion and has imposed a vise-like grip over Congress,” Blumenthal told the News. “A lot of gun owners are under the misapprehension that this movement is designed to take guns away from people.”

Despite their sphere of influence, Blumenthal said he believes the NRA’s strength is shrinking due to “internal corruption” and “loss of credibility.” He was also inspired by Democratic successes in the 2018 midterm elections, a time when he said gun control was “on the ballot,”  the senatorsaid. Since then, Blumenthal has reached an agreement with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on an emergency risk protection order proposal that would create a legal method to remove guns from those shown to be unfit to use them. Blumenthal expressed concern that the current impeachment inquiry into the president, which he supports, could distract from legislative work and not allow for compromise.

“The ball is in the president’s court,” he said.

Following the 2012 shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut passed some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and continued the push this year by passing three important bills — the banning of ghost guns and legal requirements for safe gun storage and safe vehicle storage. According to Governor Ned Lamont’s spokesperson Rob Blanchard, Lamont views Connecticut as a leader on gun control and will continue to meet with advocacy groups to determine how to move forward with gun legislation in 2020 and beyond. Blanchard also complemented Murphy and Blumenthal for their work as senators and their representation of Connecticut.

“We are going to continue to fight as long and as hard as necessary. We are not giving up, we are not going away. This is a passion and a priority for me as it has been for two or three decades and eventually we will achieve really effective measures,” Blumenthal said. 

39,773 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.