LOS ANGELES–U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) joined leading anti-violence experts, advocates, and practitioners at the 2024 Community Violence Intervention Conference for a conversation about the impact of community violence intervention (CVI) efforts and the future of the movement. In his remarks, Murphy shared his experience becoming an advocate for gun violence prevention and highlighted the invaluable leadership of Mothers United Against Violence, Hartford Communities That Care, COMPASS and other local organizations in helping pass historic gun laws.

“I now live in the south end of Hartford, a neighborhood that's been plagued by gun violence for a long time. But I grew up just about five miles away in a suburb of Hartford. I was in elected office, both state office and federal office, for over a decade. And I was not working on the issue of gun violence, despite the fact that kids who grew up just a stone's throw from me, in Hartford, Connecticut, were running for their lives,” Murphy said. “I didn't join this movement until after there was a mass shooting in a suburb. Twenty white kids died in Newtown, Connecticut. And about a month later, I went to a community meeting in Hartford, in the north end of Hartford. And I was met there by furious parents, who looked at me and said, we're glad you're here now. But where have you been? Because we've been in this movement and living this movement for decades. And now, because of Newtown, you want in. And so I'm here because I've spent the last 10 years of my life trying to make up for lost time, trying to help build a movement that stitches together the experience of the families that I now live with in the south end of Hartford, along with all the new entrants to this movement, who now see that there is no safe place from gun violence in this nation.”

On the implications of the first ever Surgeon General’s advisory declaring gun violence a public health crisis, Murphy said: “I think this has the potential to be really impactful, because the Surgeon General is not a political figure. The Surgeon General has one job, which is to look out for the health of this country. And I think one of the things that you all know, but that those of us in positions of political leadership need to do a better job of, is explaining that the cost of this epidemic is not the number of people who are shot every day, right? That is the most significant cost. That is the most serious cost. But every single child, every single family who is living in one of these neighborhoods is literally having their brain chemistry changed. Their brains are breaking because of their exposure to this violence. And I don't think America understands that. I don't think America understands what happens to kids in the neighborhood that we live in, in Hartford, when school's over and they have to come home, go back to their house, and lock the door and not come out, right, because that's what their parents or their grandparents have told them to do. That has an impact on your brain chemistry in a way that is irreversible. And I think that this Surgeon General's report gives us the chance to be able to explain that better to folks who think that gun violence only impacts you if you actually get a bullet in your stomach.”

Murphy discussed the importance of expanding background checks for curbing gun violence and the flow of illegal guns into American cities: “Those of us who are in states with tighter gun laws, we know that the guns that end up being sold in our cities are not bought in our states, because it's really hard for people with criminal records to buy guns in Connecticut. They buy those guns in states that don't have universal background checks, and they traffic them up to Connecticut. So if we had a nationwide requirement that every gun, whether it's sold online, at a gun show, in a gun store, has a background check, it would dramatically slow the pace of the weapons that are trafficked into a lot of the cities that we come from, and so, and that is the most politically popular intervention, like, gun owners really like universal background checks. So my belief is that, while I support a ban on assault weapons and other slightly more controversial changes, if we just sort of focus on that one change, universal background checks, it's the thing that unites us most easily with gun owners, and it probably is the most impactful change that we can make when it comes to the experience of gun violence in our cities.”

Murphy concluded: “Part of our job, if we want to change the gun laws of this country, if we want to put more money into CVI, is to overtly join political efforts, campaigns, elections, because if more leaders believe that they are going to lose their race if they don't vote for universal background checks, if they don't vote for another quarter billion dollars into CVI, then we'll get more done. I know that for a lot of folks, it just feels like there's no benefit in being involved in the political process and campaigns. I also know that for a lot of folks who are deeply engaged in CVI, it's like, how can I do both? Right? I'm already giving everything I have to violence interruption; you now want me to go, you know, volunteer, or organize my community for an election? But the reality is that we are on the cusp of something really important. We have Republicans and Democrats, for the first time, committed to historic big investments in this work. And the only way that we get that next big tranche of investment is if we win a handful more elections, or the very least, we make the folks that are sitting on the outside believe that there's going to be a consequence if they continue to sit on the sidelines. So, I have just seen in the last 10 years how our political activation has changed my ability to get legislation done, and I just know that if we do more of it, we'll be more successful.”