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WASHINGTON – Today, in an interview on CNN’s Newsroom just days after two journalists were fatally shot on live television, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on Congress to act “in any way, shape or form” to reduce gun violence in America. Murphy, who co-authored the Mental Health Reform Act with U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), argued that Congress must fix our nation’s mental health system and implement gun laws that the majority of Americans already support, like universal background checks.
The full text of Senator Murphy’s remarks on CNN’s Newsroom is below:
CNN’s Poppy Harlow: We are continuing to follow the tragic murder of two Virginia journalists live on the air – a murder that has reignited the debate over gun control in this country. But as the cover of the New York daily news this morning reminds us, it has happened so many times before. No major action has been taken by our lawmakers. I want to bring in Senator Chris Murphy. He is a Democrat from Connecticut. Thank you for being with me, Senator.
Senator Murphy: Thank you for having me.
Poppy Harlow: Is the daily news cover right? Will this outrage quickly die down or will change happen?
Senator Murphy: I think change is going to happen. I just don't think that democracy can work when you have 90% of the American public that want changes in our gun laws, like universal background checks, and Congress not responding. It may take a series of elections before we get there, but I think there's clear momentum towards a comprehensive look at how we reduce violence. And the fact of the matter is that it has to be comprehensive. You can't just change our gun laws. Yes, we should have these dangerous weapons off the street, criminals shouldn't get guns, but we also have a broken mental health system and that deserves fixing as well. And we shouldn't wait to do all of it at one time. If we can't get the gun laws changed because of the NRA’s control of Congress right now, then let's fix the mental health system. We should be starting this process now because it's an absolute stain on this nation that there have been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in the year. We shouldn't accept that in Congress.
Poppy Harlow: You said, Senator, in an interview with The Huffington Post this morning, “Congress' silence in the face of this rash of mass shootings has become complicity. We are essentially sending a message of quiet endorsements to these murders.” Who are you talking about in Congress?
Senator Murphy: I'm talking about the entirety of Congress, especially those that have stood in the way of common sense gun measures like expanded background checks or reforms to our mental health system. The fact is, is that when our leadership in Congress stands up and says we can't do anything, they are absolutely wrong. And I believe that we have become complicit in these murders because people listen to highest levels of government and when we say nothing about it – when we don't even attempt to change the laws to try to stop this mass slaughter – then people get some signal that it's okay so settle their grievances or to deal with their illness through gun violence. I just don't accept that we can do nothing and I'm speaking directly to the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate. They should be bringing anti-gun violence bills to the floor that can get consensus votes this fall or the Congress is complicit in these murders.
Poppy Harlow: Here is what former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore told me on the program earlier today. He said to me that what he needs to change, what he wants to change, is more community mental health services. He also said this, listen:
Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore: The left wing in this country was trying to reduce our rights under the second amendment. Governor McAuliffe was out there calling for gun control. Hillary Clinton, who is basically the sponsor for Governor McAuliffe, was calling for gun control. The President was calling for gun control. Gun control is not the answer. You're now diverting attention away from the real problem.
Poppy Harlow: I went on to say what is the answer and he said community-based mental health services and more of that. What is the answer in your mind, Senator?
Senator Murphy: Well, let's be honest about what the data shows. We don't have any more mental illness in the United States than any other country in the world has, and yet we have five times the rate of gun violence, so it can't be that mental illness is the only answer. The reality is, is that the data shows us that in countries and communities that have more guns – especially have more guns in the hands of criminals, especially have more dangerous assault weapons out on the streets – there’s more gun violence. More guns equals more gun violence. Now, I don't want to stop law-abiding citizens from being able to own guns, but the fact is that the left wing of this country, as Mr. Gilmore says, I guess is 90% of the country because that's the number of Americans that support something like expanded background checks. So you just can't throw this whole problem on the backs of the mental health system, and you also have to recognize that you're feeding the stigma. The fact is that there's no inherent connection between mental illness and violence, and that kind of talk should stop.
Poppy Harlow: What about this shooting and the fact that this gunman, as far as we know right now, did not have any sort of documented history of mental illness. Obviously something was completely wrong with him. He idolized other mass shooters but what do you do about this situation, Senator?
Senator Murphy: Well, I don't think you can craft a legislative solution to every single incident of violence in this country, and so I don't think that we should expect that anything that we're going to enact in Washington is going to stop shootings, but there are plenty of instances – including the Connecticut shooting and the South Carolina shooting – in which better gun laws could have made a difference. In South Carolina, that guy got a gun because of the loophole in the background checks law that allowed the retailer to give him a gun despite the fact he hadn't passed the background check. And this whole culture of mass violence in which Congress does nothing, I think, sends a message to a lot of these individuals who are becoming unhinged in their mind that it's okay to go out and commit these murders because no one seems to be doing anything to stop it, and so why should [they] think any differently than everybody else that [they] see on the news carrying out this kind of violence? There's no one legislative solution, but there are changes that will make a difference, and Congress acting – just the action of Congress in any way, shape, or form – will have a chilling effect on this trend.
Poppy Harlow: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Appreciate you joining me this morning, sir.