WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), author of the Background Check Expansion Act, on Tuesday called on Congress to take immediate action to expand federal background checks. During a “Voices of Victims” speech on the Senate floor, Murphy emphasized that more than 90 percent of Americans support comprehensive background checks and shared the story of Connecticut resident, Deon Rodney, who was fatally shot earlier this month in a Bridgeport barbershop after trying to stop the gunman.
Click here to view a video of Murphy’s remarks.
“33,000 people a year, 2,800 a month, 93 a day. That is a rate of gun violence that is not twice that of other industrialized nations, it is not five times, it is not 10 times. It is 20 times higher than the rate of gun violence in other industrialized countries in this world,” said Murphy. “It is, by and large, because we have a set of gun laws that allow for illegal guns, dangerous weapons to flow into the hands of very dangerous people.
“Deon Rodney was shot on October 14 of this year, just a few weeks ago. He was working at Just Right Cutz where he was a barber in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was the 22nd homicide victim in Bridgeport this year. He had just finished cutting a young boy's hair in a chair when a masked gunman chased somebody else into the barbershop,” Murphy continued. “I hope my Republican colleagues will take a look at the new background checks legislation that I’ve introduced with many of my colleagues and we can finally get to a place 90% of our constituents want us to be.”
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below.
Thank you, Mr. President. Last week, we voted on a judge who felt it necessary to sign up for a lifetime membership with a political organization in order to get his nomination forwarded back before this body. The judge we voted on last week became a lifetime member of the NRA in between his appointment by President Obama and then his appointment by President Trump – a signal, apparently, to the new Republican White House that he would align with their interests and views on interests related to the regulation of firearms in this country.
We're going to see a parade of very interesting choices for the federal judiciary come through this body, and they are going to be moved in rapid succession as they are this week. I have been told that never before have we taken four votes on appellate nominees in a single week, and of course that stands in contrast with the Republican Senate that refused to even give a hearing to one Supreme Court justice over the entirety of 2016. I think it's worth noting that this body can move fast when it wants to, and yet we watched a Supreme Court seat be stolen by this Senate from a Democratic president who, by constitutional right, had the ability to make that appointment.
I bring up the lifetime membership in the NRA because it is increasingly clear that you have to signal a level of extremism on issues like firearms in order to get your name brought before this body, and that signal is wildly out of step with where the American people are on many of these issues.
I have come down to the floor, Mr. President, over the course of the last four years every few weeks in order to talk about the fact that there is no other country in the world where 80 to 90 people every single day die from guns. The numbers are absolutely stunning. 2,823 a month from guns, 33,000 a year. The majority of those are suicides, but there are a record number of homicides and accidental shootings in this country. Americans by-and-large don't accept this rate of slaughter. Americans want us to change our laws, and they don't want a judiciary which is going to stand in the way of Congress' ability to follow the wishes of our constituents.
I have been coming down to the floor to tell the story of the victims because my hope is that, although the data hasn't moved this Congress, 90% of Americans want stronger gun laws. Data incontrovertibly shows that in places that have universal background checks or laws requiring you to get local permits before you buy a gun, there are less gun crimes. Maybe if the data doesn't move my colleagues, the stories of the victims will.
Deon Rodney was shot on October 14 of this year, just a few weeks ago. He was working at Just Right Cutz where he was a barber in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He was the 22nd homicide victim in Bridgeport this year. He had just finished cutting a young boy's hair in a chair when a masked gunman chased somebody else into the barbershop. Police said that Deon was protecting the young boy, shielding the young boy from this intruder who came running in. He jumped out of his chair to try to get in between the boy sitting in the barber chair and the gunman, and the gunman shot him. The owner of the barbershop said Deon had just finished his haircut, and the boy was getting ready to go outside when the gunman came in. He saved everyone in the barbershop.
Deon is 31 years old. He left behind his wife, his mother, plenty of other family members, and an 8-year-old daughter. Speaking about their daughter, Deon's wife said he loved her endlessly, unconditionally. His mother said Deon is “a part of me, he was my son, but he's also my friend.” His cousin said, “I know that everyone is recognizing his heroism now, but he was always like this, always a role model, always willing to give, always willing to go out of his way to help a stranger. Nothing has changed all these years. I guess I’m glad that the masses can now see this.” The owner of the barbershop went on to say Deon's “dead because of these people running around with guns.”
There are guns everywhere you look, in cities like Bridgeport or New Haven or Hartford or New York or Chicago. And people say, well, why is that? Why are all these guns, many of them if not most of them, illegal guns if you have strong gun laws in places like New York and Illinois and Connecticut?
Well, the reason is that gun trafficking doesn't recognize state boundaries, and the guns that are used to commit crimes in places like Connecticut come from outside of Connecticut. A comprehensive ground-breaking survey of gun crimes in New York City found that 75% of the guns that are used to commit crimes in New York City come from outside of New York state. They come from states with looser gun laws in which you, as a criminal, can easily buy a gun without having to prove that you are a responsible gun owner. How do all these illegal guns get into Bridgeport, such that somebody can turn a corner, walk into a barbershop with a weapon in their hand? It's because criminals with criminal records go into gun shows in states that don't require background checks at those forums, buy up dozens of weapons, load them into their car and then drive up to states with tougher gun laws and sell them on the black market.
Congress willingly allows this to happen because we have not moved our mandatory system of background checks to the places in which gun purchases are made today. Data is a little bit hard to pin down, but anywhere from 25% to 40% of gun sales today don't involve a background check, and you can understand why sales have migrated to online. They've migrated to gun shows. They've gone to places where background checks aren't required. And I mentioned what the data is when it comes to background checks. The data tells us that background checks save lives.
Here's just one slice of the data. In states that have universal background checks laws, 47% less women get shot by an intimate partner than states without universal background checks laws. That's because in the heat of passion, domestic abusers often go to get a weapon, use it to perpetuate a domestic violence crime. You can't do that if you have a domestic violence history in a state with a universal background check law because wherever you go, you're going to be prohibited from buying that weapon. Since November of 1998, more than 2.4 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers have been prevented because of background checks. 2.5 million people who were criminals or who were addicts or who were seriously mentally ill were stopped from buying guns because of our background checks laws.
But because we now have at least one-quarter of all sales happening without background checks, that means that there are hundreds of thousands of criminals, hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental illness who are able to buy guns. So it's not surprising that 90% of Americans - 90% of gun owners, 90% of Democrats and 90% of Republicans – support expanded background checks. I would argue that there's not another issue out there in American politics today that enjoys 90% support amongst Republicans and Democrats.
Senator Durbin corrected me and said that the latest survey is actually 94% support from Republicans and Democrats. The only slice of the American electorate that you can get under 90% is NRA members. And NRA members support universal background checks at a 75% clip. So background checks saves lives. They are supported by the vast majority of the American public. And yet we can't get it done.
This month, I along with a couple dozen cosponsors, introduced a new version of legislation allowing for background checks to occur in every commercial sale that's conducted in this country, with commonsense exceptions: making sure that when you're gifting a firearm to a family member, or loaning a gun to a friend who wants to take it to go hunting, that you don't have to conduct a background check in those circumstances. But if it is a traditional arms-length sale, you have to go through a process that usually takes about ten minutes in order to prove that you are not a criminal. This proposal is supported by 90% of Americans. And it is time that we recognize that it is directly connected to this epidemic of gun violence that plagues the country.
Let me close by making another argument to you. I know a lot of my Republican friends talk a lot on this floor and on the cable news shows about the threat of terrorism to this country. Well, when the terrorists decided to use planes as their weapon of choice to attack our country, we changed the way that our law protects us from attack by airplane. We made sure that we screened individuals before they got onto these planes to make sure that they don't have weapons or bomb-making material that could ultimately threaten the rest of us. We now all take off our shoes every time we get onto an airplane because we recognized that we needed to change our laws in order to change the way these planes were being used to attack our citizens.
These terrorists have recognized that it is now pretty hard to get on a plane. So they are now directing would-be attackers to a different forum. ISIS' propaganda magazine encouraged recruits in the United States take advantage of our loose gun laws. It specifically told people to go to gun shows where you will not have to present identification or submit to background checks in order to buy military-style weapons that you can use to kill dozens of Americans.
ISIS and al Qaeda are telling their potential recruits in the United States to go to gun shows so that they don't have to submit themselves to a background check, so that there is no paper trail of the gun that they are buying in order to kill Americans. Why wouldn't we adjust our laws to recognize that the new weapon of choice of terrorists is not an airplane, but it is today a tactical weapon bought outside the background check system?
I've got a million more reasons why we should do what 90% of the American public wants and someday maybe we'll get there. 33,000 people a year, 2,800 a month, 93 a day. That is a rate of gun violence that is not twice that of other industrialized nations, it is not five times, it is not 10 times. It is 20 times higher than the rate of gun violence in other industrialized countries in this world. And it is not because we have more people that are mentally ill. It is not because we spend less money on law enforcement. It is, by and large, because we have a set of gun laws that allow for illegal guns, dangerous weapons to flow into the hands of very dangerous people.
I hope my Republican colleagues will take a look at the new background checks legislation that I’ve introduced with many of my colleagues and we can finally get to a place 90% of our constituents want us to be.