WASHINGTON – Following a string of mass shootings this summer in Texas, California and Ohio, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday, along with U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), took to the U.S. Senate floor to share stories of people whose lives have been affected by gun violence. Murphy also urged President Trump and his Republican colleagues to take action on commonsense gun violence legislation.
Following the mass shootings this summer, Murphy has been in direct negotiations with the White House and his colleagues U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to expand background checks on prospective firearms purchasers. Over 90% of Americans support comprehensive background checks and research indicates that nearly a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check. In January 2019, Murphy led 40 Senators in introducing the Background Check Expansion Act to expand background checks to all gun sales.
“…The status quo is not acceptable to Americans in this country. People are sick and tired of feeling unsafe when they walk into a Walmart. Parents are heartbroken when their children come home and tell them about the latest active shooter drill that they participated in,” Murphy said.
“…I'm not saying that universal background checks can solve all of our gun violence issues in this country, but I will say that beyond the lives that it will save, it will also send a message to our children, it will send a message to families in this country, that we are not encased in concrete, that we are trying our best to reach out across the aisle and come to some conclusion to at least save some lives, and I will tell you that peace of mind, that moral signal of compassion and concern that we will send, that will have a value as well next to and beside the actual lives that we will save,” Murphy added.
“I'm begging the president to come to the table and agree to a common sense background checks expansion bill that will save lives. I'm begging my colleagues here to do the same,” Murphy concluded.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
“Thank you, Mr. President.
“Mr. President [I’m] going to be joined on the floor over the course of the next hour or so by members of the Senate who are desperate for our colleagues to wake up and recognize that the time for action to quell the epidemic of gun violence in this country is now.
“It was also last week, it was also a month ago, and a year ago, and six years ago. It was also nearly seven years ago, after the shooting in my state of Connecticut, which felled 20 little six and seven year olds attending first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We tend to pay attention to the mass shootings, the Odessa's and the El Paso’s and the Dayton's and the Newtown’s but every single day in this country 93 people die from gunshot wounds. Most of those are suicides, but many of them are homicides, others are accidental shootings, and when you total it all up, we're losing about 33,000 people every year from gun violence and gunshot wounds. Those numbers may not be that meaningful to you, because it's a big country and so how does that compare to the rest of the world or at least the rest of the high income world? Well, that's about 10 times higher than other countries of similar income [or of a] similar situation as the United States. Something different is happening here and it's not that we have more mental illness. It's not that we have less mental health treatment. It's not that we have less resources going to law enforcement. The difference is that we have guns spread out all over this nation, many of them illegal, many of them of a caliber and capacity that were designed for the military, in which this slaughter becomes predictable. And so we have a chance to do something about it right now in the United States Congress. We have a chance to try to find some way to come together over some commonsense measures.
“Mr. President, I just got off the phone. [We had a] 40 minute conversation with the President of the United States. I was glad that he was willing to take that amount of time with myself and Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey to talk about whether we can figure out a way to get Republicans and Democrats on board with a proposal to expand background checks to more gun sales in this nation. In particular, we were talking about expanding background checks to commercial gun sales. That's certainly not as far as I would like to go but I understand that part of my job here is to argue for my beliefs and my convictions, but then try to find a compromise.
“There's no single legislative initiative that will solve all of these [gun deaths], but what we know is that if you want to take the biggest bite out of gun crime as quickly as possible, increasing the number of background checks done in this country is the way to go. Because all we're trying to do here is make sure that when you buy a gun, you prove that you aren't someone with a serious criminal history or you aren’t somebody that has a serious history of mental illness. In 2017 about 170,000 people in this country went into a store, tried to buy a gun and were denied that sale because they had an offense on their record or a period of time in an inpatient psychiatric unit that prohibited them from buying a gun. Of those 170,000 sales that were denied, 39% of them were convicted felons who had tried to come in and buy a gun, many of them knowing that they were likely prohibited from buying those guns. The problem is, is that that isn't a barrier to buying a weapon – being denied a sale at a gun store. Why do we know that? Well, because just a few weeks ago in Texas, a gunman who went in and shot up seven people who were killed and 23 that were injured, failed a background check, because he had been diagnosed by a clinician as mentally ill and had triggered one of those prohibiting clauses. But then he went and bought the gun from a private seller knowing that he wouldn't have to go through a background check if he bought the weapon in a place in Texas that didn't have a background check attached to it. Then he took that weapon and turned it on civilians.
“Now this happens over and over and over again every single day. Estimates are that at least 20% of all gun sales in this country happen without a background check. Now these aren't gifts of guns to a relative, not a loaner to somebody who's going to go and use it for hunting on a Saturday or Sunday. This is about legitimate commercial transactions in which 20% of them – when they involve guns – happened without a background check.
“We also have plenty of data from states that have decided to expand background checks to make them universal. States requiring universal background checks for all gun sales have homicide rates that are 15% lower than in states that don't have those laws. And in Connecticut, we have research showing that when we extended background checks to all gun sales through a local permitting process, we had a 40% reduction in gun homicide rates. Compare that with the state of Missouri, which repealed its permitting law, which was their way of making sure that everybody who buys a gun has to get a background check and they saw a 23% increase in firearm homicides immediately after they started allowing people to buy guns without a background check. So there's your data, it's pretty incontrovertible, you can get pretty immediate and serious returns, safety returns if you expand background checks out to all gun purchases. But the benefit to a United States Senate that has to go back for reelection every six years is that not only is background checks as a legislative initiative impactful, it's also really politically popular.
“In fact, very few things are more popular than expanding background checks to more gun sales. 90% of Americans want universal background checks – apple pie is not that popular, baseball's not that popular, right? Background checks are. You're not going to get in trouble with your constituents If you vote to expand background checks to all commercial sales, or all private sales in this country, you're going to get rewarded politically if you do that. I don't argue that that's the reason you should vote for background checks but I think you should accept the plaudits that will come to you from your constituents if you support this measure.
“Now, I don't think the president has made up his mind yet. After spending about 40 minutes on the phone with him this afternoon. I don't know that the president is yet convinced that he should support universal background checks. I was with the president right after the Parkland shooting in which he said that he would support universal background checks. And then he didn't after speaking to representatives of the gun lobby, and I'm sure that the gun lobby will come in and talk to the president this afternoon or tomorrow and try to explain to him why he should once again endorse the status quo, but the status quo is not acceptable to Americans in this country. People are sick and tired of feeling unsafe when they walk into a Walmart. Parents are heartbroken when their children come home and tell them about the latest active shooter drill that they participated in. I know that from direct experience, having listened to my then kindergartener tell me about being stuffed into a tiny bathroom with 25 of his other [classmates] and told by his teacher to remain as quiet as possible because they were practicing for what would happen if a stranger came into their school. Some of the kids knew what it was really about, some of them didn't. But my seven year old, six years old at the time, knew enough to say to me, daddy, I didn't like it.
“No child should have to fear for their safety when they walk to school. And I'm not saying that universal background checks can solve all of our gun violence issues in this country, but I will say that beyond the lives that it will save, it will also send a message to our children, it will send a message to families in this country, that we are not encased in concrete, that we are trying our best to reach out across the aisle and come to some conclusion to at least save some lives, and I will tell you that peace of mind, that moral signal of compassion and concern that we will send, that will have a value as well next to and beside the actual lives that we will save.
“Lailah Hernandez was 15 years old, she was a high school student when she was shot by the mass gunman in Odessa, Texas. Her grandmother, Nora, explained how Lailah spent a lot of her time with family [and] would drop by after school to visit her grandmother. She described Lailah as a happy girl who adored her parents. She was described at her funeral as a naturally shy girl who became a quiet leader on the basketball court.
“Lois Oglesby was 27 when she was killed in the Dayton shooting. Her friend Derasha Merrett said she was a wonderful mother, a wonderful person. According to the children's father Oglesby FaceTimed him after she was shot saying, quote ‘babe, I just got shot in my head. I need to get to see my kids.’ She died that day in Dayton.
“Jordan and Andre Anchondo were 25 and 23 when they were amongst the 22 that were killed in El Paso. The couple had dropped their five year old daughter at cheer practice and then they went to Walmart to pick up some back to school supplies. Their two month old son Paul was with them and he survived the shooting, probably because it looks like Jordan died shielding her baby while Andre jumped in front of the two of them. The baby was found under Jordan's body and miraculously suffered only two broken fingers.
“On August 31, in Buffalo, New York, Norzell Aldridge saw [an] altercation happening from a distance. He went over to defuse the altercation, to try to defuse the situation. He was a youth league football coach and as he tried to deal with this altercation, he was shot and killed. One of his friends said ‘the guy died a hero trying to save somebody else's life’. One of the folks who worked in football with him said his legacy will always be never give up, give it your all and now his legacy is through his son. You guys haven't heard of Norzell because he didn't die in a mass shooting. He's just one of the routine gun murders that happens every single day in this country and they matter just as much as those that occurred in El Paso and Dayton and Odessa and we can do something about those right now.
“I'm begging the president to come to the table and agree to a common sense background checks expansion bill that will save lives. I'm begging my colleagues here to do the same. Figure out a way to get to yes. There's no political liability in it for you and there are thousands and thousands of lives to be saved. I yield the floor.”