WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with his colleagues U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), demanded the U.S. Senate bring up a vote on the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R.8) just as reports surfaced of yet another school shooting in California. After U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) objected to the unanimous consent (UC) request, Murphy delivered remarks on the U.S. Senate floor calling out Republicans and the White House for inaction to save lives.
Murphy said: “We can't go 24 hours without news of another mass shooting somewhere in America. My kids and millions others hide in corners of their classroom or in their bathrooms preparing for a mass shooting at their school and this body does nothing about it.”
“It doesn't pass the straight face test to come down here and say, ‘well, we can't take up H.R. 8 despite the fact that it has 90% public approval, because we haven't had input on it,’” Murphy said. “You're in the majority. You have the ability to pass legislation that you support, that Democrats can support as well. And the idea that we're just going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs, week after week, as 100 people are killed by guns through suicides and homicides and accidental shootings, it's an abdication of our basic responsibility as United States Senators.”
Murphy also pushed back the administration’s blame on impeachment for lack of action on gun violence.
Murphy said: “The White House can't say that impeachment is stopping a debate on background checks from happening. I'm ready to talk. Senator Toomey is ready to talk. Senator Manchin is ready to talk.”
It’s been over 200 days since this legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to put the legislation up for a vote or debate. Earlier this year, Murphy introduced the Background Check Expansion Act, the Senate companion legislation to H.R.8. Blumenthal and Murray are co-sponsors of the bill.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
MURPHY: “Thank you very much, Mr. President.
“As Senator Murray noted, 100 people die from gunshot wounds every single day. We can't go 24 hours without news of another mass shooting somewhere in America. My kids and millions others hide in corners of their classroom or in their bathrooms preparing for a mass shooting at their school and this body does nothing about it.
“The good news is we have a piece of legislation that enjoys 95% support in the American public and will undoubtedly make an enormous impact on gun violence rates in this country. And so I will give more extensive remarks after I make this unanimous consent request, but my request will be that the Senate immediately take up H.R. 8, the universal background checks bill that was passed in a bipartisan way through the House of Representatives and has received no action, no debate, here in the United States Senate since that time.
“So, Mr. President, as if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar number 29, H.R. 8. Further that the bill be considered read, a third time, and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.
“Mr. President, I appreciate the good faith objection from my friend from Mississippi. But the good news that I can convey to her is that my Republican Senate friends who want to have some impact into the consideration of the future of American gun laws, have ample opportunity to do that because you're in the majority. Senate Republicans control the Judiciary Committee; Senator McConnell can decide to bring any measure to the floor.
“And so if the concern is that there hasn't been enough Republican input into the question of whether criminals or terrorists or people who are seriously mentally ill get guns, then convene a discussion on this, bring a debate to the floor, have a process in the Judiciary Committee. Don't just stay silent.
“It doesn't pass the straight face test to come down here and say, ‘well, we can't take up H.R. 8 despite the fact that it has 90% public approval, because we haven't had input on it.’ You're in the majority. You have the ability to pass legislation that you support, that Democrats can support as well. And the idea that we're just going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs, week after week, as 100 people are killed by guns through suicides and homicides and accidental shootings, it's an abdication of our basic responsibility as United States Senators. There's nothing that matters more to our constituents than their physical safety.
“And there are kids that are walking to school, in cities in every single state in this body, who fear for their lives, whose brain chemistry is changed by the trauma that they go through because of that fear for their safety. They can't learn, they can't cope, and they can't build strong relationships.
“My kids go through active shooter drills at school because they, in fact, expect that someday, someone will walk through their doors and start firing a military-style assault weapon in one of their classrooms.
“And I get it, there's a difference of opinion on exactly how we should expand background checks. I understand that maybe my Republican colleagues don't want to support H.R. 8. But you're in the majority. You have the ability to lead a conversation that can find that common ground on expanding background checks. So I'm just not going to accept this argument that we can't bring H.R. 8 to the floor because we've got some concerns about it. I can't get a piece of legislation to the floor in any other way other than to offer this motion.
“And the American public are not going to accept silence from this body week after week, month after month, in the face of this epidemic carnage that is happening across this country. Parents know that their kids aren't safe. They know that their kids aren't safe. And they expect us to act.
“The president’s Attorney General said the other day that we made some progress on the issue of background checks over the summer, but now we've got the impeachment proceedings and so that's stopped all this discussion. That's not true. The impeachment proceedings right now are in the House of Representatives. The discussion on the future of a background checks bill was in the Senate. It was happening between myself and Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey. We are still at the table ready to negotiate a compromise version of a Background Checks Expansion Act.
“And we frankly got lots of time on our hands here in the Senate because we're not doing anything other than approving an appointee here, a judge there. We’ve got plenty of time. We’ve got plenty of bandwidth here in the Senate to negotiate with the White House over universal background checks bill.
“And so you can't say that we can't take up H.R. 8 because we haven't had input. Republicans are in charge. You have the ability to have as much input as you want.
“The White House can't say that impeachment is stopping a debate on background checks from happening. I'm ready to talk. Senator Toomey is ready to talk. Senator Manchin is ready to talk. And we have evidence just from this summer about how important universal background checks are.
“On the last day of August, a gunman fled from police in Odessa, Texas. He hijacked a United States Postal Service van, he killed [the] driver and then randomly fired on people as he drove through the streets. During his shooting spree, the gunman killed seven people and wounded over 20 others. A reign of terror throughout the streets of this Texas town.
“Now the current background checks law worked as it was intended to work. The shooter tried to buy a gun in January 2014, but he was denied. Why? Because he had been found to be so seriously mentally ill when he was committed to an inpatient institution that his name was placed on the list of individuals who are prohibited from buying weapons.
“The problem is Texas doesn't have universal background checks. Meaning that it was as easy as pie for the shooter, after he got denied a gun purchase at a bricks and mortar store, to just go find a private seller who would sell him a military-style weapon without a background check. And in this case, it resulted in 20 people getting hurt and [seven] people being [killed].
“This easy way to find loopholes through the nation's background check system, but that happens every single day. Every single day, somebody buys a gun at a gun show or online or through a private sale, because that's the way they can get a gun without having to go through a background check.
“And so I am deeply, deeply troubled. I’m profoundly, profoundly aggrieved by my body's reluctance to even take up a conversation about the future of gun policy in this country. I wish there wasn't an objection. I wish that we had an opportunity to be able to discuss the future of background checks, the future of our gun laws on the Senate floor.
“Our constituents expect us to have that debate and this won't be the last time that we come down to the floor to try to force a debate, to force a conversation in this body, so that we can find bipartisan consensus on an issue that enjoys 95% public support. 80% support from gun owners. 70% support from NRA members.
“There's almost nothing else that is less controversial in America today than the issue of universal background checks and we will continue to press that case on behalf of the American people.
“I yield the floor.”