MURPHY: “LET’S TALK ABOUT EXPANDING BACKGROUND CHECKS”

Murphy: “My hope is that we can bring [Fix NICS] before the Senate, but then we can have a debate on other measures that might enjoy bipartisan support that will do ten times more than Fix NICS to keep this country safe.”

Click here to view video of Murphy’s remarks.

WASHINGTON – Two weeks after 17 students and staff were killed by a deranged gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) – co-author of the bipartisan Fix NICS Act to ensure federal and state authorities accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – demanded on Wednesday that Senate Republican Leadership allow Congress to have a full, broad debate on various pieces of gun safety legislation. Murphy emphasized that he supports the Fix NICS Act, and that it should be a starting point for Congress to pass a much more comprehensive set of bipartisan measures – such as expanding background checks, implementing court protective orders to take guns away from dangerous people, and limit magazine sizes – to reduce gun violence. 

“I'm proud that Senator Cornyn and I, and many others in this body, came together to put forward a piece of legislation that will improve the background check system. It will make sure that more people that shouldn't buy guns aren't able to buy guns, but it's a relatively modest – not relatively, it is a modest change,” said Murphy. “It doesn't actually add any new background checks. It doesn't solve the gun show loophole. It doesn't solve the Internet loophole.”

Murphy continued, “Let's talk about expanding background checks to make sure that everybody that is buying a gun in a commercial sale has to prove that they are not a criminal, prove that they are not seriously mentally ill. Let's talk about the experience that Connecticut and Indiana have had in allowing courts to use protective orders to take away guns from people that are showing evidence of doing harm to the people around them. Let's have a conversation about whether or not we think it's right for people to be able to walk into schools with a gun equipped with a 30-round or 100-round magazine.”

“I think we owe it to the American people to not limit debate, to not shut down debate in the United States Senate chamber,” concluded Murphy. “Fix NICS is just simply not enough to meet this moment. I hope we can build upon it in the coming days.”         

Following the massacre of 26 people at a Sutherland Springs, Texas church last year, Murphy called on Congress to work together to ensure that civilians cannot access after-market modifications that turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. In addition to introducing the Fix NICS Act, he also joined U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in introducing the Automatic Gun Fire Prevention Act, a bill to close a loophole that allows people to use bump-stocks to turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons. Murphy is also the author of the Background Check Expansion Act to expand federal background checks to the sale or transfer of all firearms by private sellers, with certain reasonable exceptions.

The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Colleagues, I hope we rise to the moment before us and get something done to try to make this country safer over the course of the next week or two. I'm going to be glad to go and join the president in a few hours to hear more about his thoughts on how we can put the safety of our kids ahead of any political considerations, and try to figure out how to make sure that Parkland is the last.

As I have told some of the kids who have come into my office from Parkland, the ripples of grief will never ever end there. In Newtown, Connecticut, that place has been fundamentally changed. When you lose that many young lives in a short period of time, there is no true recovery. And unfortunately, Parkland will find that, as Charleston did, as Orlando did, and so many before them.

But we need to remember that while the country tends to pay attention to the epidemic of gun violence when there is a mass shooting, this is an epidemic that doesn't take a day off. Yesterday, likely 80 to 90 people died from gunshot wounds. The majority of those were suicides. That is an epidemic in and of itself. A chunk of those were accidental shootings, another chunk of those were gun homicides. But the rate of gun death in this country has no parallel anywhere else in the world. There's not another first-world nation that has the rate of gun violence that we do. In fact, it's not even close. 

The rate of gun violence in this country is 20 times – 20 times – higher than the average in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). So we have to remember that when we try to craft a public policy response here, it can't just be about school shootings. You're much more likely to die from an accidental gunshot than you are in a school shooting. And so we've got to be comprehensive in our approach, which is why the Fix NICS Act just isn’t good enough.

I'm proud that Senator Cornyn and I, and many others in this body, came together to put forward a piece of legislation that will improve the background check system. It will make sure that more people that shouldn't buy guns aren't able to buy guns, but it's a relatively modest – not relatively, it is a modest change. In fact, it's really just about making sure that people that are in law enforcement and inside the NICS system comply with existing law. It doesn't actually add any new background checks. It doesn't solve the gun show loophole. It doesn't solve the Internet loophole.

So my hope is that we can bring this bill before the Senate, but then we can have a debate on other measures that might enjoy bipartisan support that will do ten times more than Fix NICS to keep this country safe. 

Let's talk about expanding background checks to make sure that everybody that is buying a gun in a commercial sale has to prove that they are not a criminal, prove that they are not seriously mentally ill. Let's talk about the experience that Connecticut and Indiana have had in allowing courts to use protective orders to take away guns from people that are showing evidence of doing harm to the people around them. Let's have a conversation about whether or not we think it's right for people to be able to walk into schools with a gun equipped with a 30-round or 100-round magazine. I don't know if any of those measures will get 60 votes, but I think we owe it to the American people to not limit debate, to not shut down debate in the United States Senate chamber.

I know it's probably a scary thing for some Republicans that votes are changing. Many of my Republican colleagues have acknowledged that they may be thinking about supporting things today that they might not have supported before. And because minds are changing, it behooves us to make sure that we have a full debate on the floor of the United States Senate. 

So I'm supportive of the bill that Senator Cornyn and I have worked on. I hope that it can become the foundation of a much more comprehensive set of measures that we take a look at in the coming days, and I think you've got to pay attention to where the American public is on this issue. I understand that polls shouldn't dictate all of the decisions that we make here. We pay attention to public opinion. We respond to it more often than not, but it doesn't guide every single decision that we make here because public opinion changes. But on this issue it has been a slow and steady build.

The number of Americans saying that the United States Congress bears responsibility for the epidemic of mass slaughter in this country because we have not changed a single gun law –except to make them weaker – since Sandy Hook. Remember, the only thing this body has done on guns since Sandy Hook is to allow  hundreds of thousands of seriously mentally ill people to get weapons. It passed that law last year, it was signed by the present. Nothing to actually strengthen gun laws.

Record numbers of Americans want us to take action. Ninety-seven percent of Americans want us to pass universal background checks. Apple pie isn't as popular as background checks are in this country today. No other public policy that we are considering gets a 97 percent approval rating from the American public other than universal background checks. Let's listen to them. Let’s listen to them. 

I encourage Senator McConnell to not limit debate, to not constrain the Senate. Let's use this week and next week to try to come up with a set of measures that we can debate and have up-or-down votes on, and let's hope in the meantime the president fleshes out what he is for and against. The president tweeted that he supports comprehensive background checks. Maybe later today, we will find out if that’s really true. Comprehensive background checks tends to mean closing the loopholes that exist, but hopefully the president can help lead us to a conclusion that is something much more than Fix NICS. As my colleague from Florida who has lived through the last several mass shootings in his state remarked, Fix NICS is just simply not enough to meet this moment. I hope we can build upon it in the coming days. 

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield.  

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