Dramatically Expanding the Number of Background Checks Processed In This Country Will Undoubtedly Save Lives

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Friday delivered the following remarks at a press conference following his conversations with the White House and President Trump about background checks legislation:

“Alright, good morning everyone, my name is Chris Murphy. I have the honor of representing Connecticut in the United States Senate. I apologize for being a few minutes late, but I wanted to be here this morning to give you all a personal update on conversations that I have been having with the president and the White House about the path forward on changing America's gun laws to make this country a safer place. And I'm happy to take questions about those conversations which have been ongoing for the last two weeks.

“First of all, it's heartbreaking to me that this country only takes seriously changing the nation’s gun laws after a high-profile mass shooting. What happened in El Paso and Dayton were absolutely horrifying. But that very same weekend, 50 people were shot in Chicago, Illinois, and I'm not sure anyone would have known that had there not been mass shootings in two other communities that same weekend.

“Every single day in America, around 100 people die from gunshot wounds, many of them from suicides, others from homicides and accidental shootings. This is a daily epidemic in this country. And it's ridiculous to me that Congress only thinks that it has to act after one of these mass shootings occurs.

“And I've heard many of my colleagues, especially my Republican colleagues, in the last two weeks, criticize certain measures like background checks because it won’t specifically address America's mass shooting epidemic—ignoring the fact that if we put a downward pressure on the daily gun violence in this country, it can save just as many lives.

“But here we are again, in the wake of another epic-scale mass slaughter. We are talking about the prospects for changing America’s gun laws.

“The president very quickly after the mass shootings went to the press and said he was open to a conversation about background checks. During those first few days, I was on the phone with my colleagues—Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate—trying to explore whether we could revive the background checks legislation which failed in the Senate in 2013, or take up the bill that has already passed the House of Representatives.

“One weekend ago, the president called me and told me personally that he was indeed serious about moving forward together on what he called meaningful background checks legislation. The president told me that he knew that Republicans in the Senate wouldn't support it unless he supported a background checks measure, and he was committed to finding a way forward. After that, I had other conversations with the White House, my staff began to meet with the White House and other members who were interested in it.

“Several days ago, some of the president's comments seemed to suggest that he was once again backing away from his commitment to work on background checks legislation. This was familiar to many of us because we had seen it happen in Parkland.

“If you remember after the Parkland shooting, the president convened myself and a handful of others at the White House and publicly committed to working forward, working together on background checks legislation. At that time, he even seemed in that meeting to endorse proposals like assault weapons bans. The NRA came into his office about 24 hours after the Parkland meeting and he changed his mind. And there were reports that he had been on the phone with members of the gun lobby and that was in part what had changed his thinking. 

“I have been in contact with the White House this week since the president's comments, as late as last night, and I believe that the White House is still committed to trying to work on a comprehensive anti-gun violence proposal that would include strengthening background checks. And I committed to the White House last night that I would work with them over the course of the next few weeks to try to find common ground on expanding background checks in this country.

“The White House confirmed to me that they are also interested in trying to find common ground on Senator Blumenthal’s proposal to incentivize states to develop extreme risk protection orders and that that would hopefully be part of a larger package.

“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.

“And I'm sure there will be some people who will say I'm naive to think that we're going to end up getting a proposal through that will significantly expand background checks and be able to get 60 votes in the Senate.

“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. Because if we were able to dramatically expand the number of background checks that are processed in this country, for instance at gun shows or through online sales, we would undoubtedly save lives.

“In states that have universal background checks, you have 30 to 40% less individuals who are killed by guns than in states that don't have those protections. And so I think it's important to spend some time trying to reach some common ground. I will say, though, that I'm skeptical that that process will eventually bear fruit.

“So, I am hopeful that we're going to begin, once again, meeting with Republican and Democratic legislators and the White House next week as we have begun to do last week and that there will be something to report.

“If this all seems like a ruse—an attempt by the president to make it look like he's doing something without actually moving the ball down the field—I think we'll know that in fairly short order. But I want to make sure to give this all a try.

“Lastly, I've made it clear to the White House that if they are prepared to give the NRA veto power over this package, then it's not worth having even one meeting. I don't know yet whether they are listening to me. But I will say in my conversation with the president, you know, he understood that at the time, he understood that what was a bill that was meaningful would not likely be supported by the gun lobby, and I’ve reiterated that to the White House this week.

“So, with that, listen, I'd be happy to open it up to questions. As I said, I think the chances of success here less than 50/50 but I think it’s worth giving this a shot. I’m looking forward to the process that I think will begin over the course of the next several days.”

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