WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday delivered remarks on the U.S. Senate floor where he demanded that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bring the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R.8) up for a vote. This legislation would expand federal background checks to all gun sales. Senate Republicans objected to the request.
In a plea to Senate Republicans to debate and vote on bipartisan background checks legislation, Murphy said: “We have begged and pleaded for this piece of legislation to come before the Senate. I understand that there may not be 60 votes on the Senate to pass the exact piece of legislation supported by the House, but we could engage in a process of amendment, a process of compromise, that could end up saving lives and getting a piece of legislation passed that is supported, as I mentioned, by nine out of ten Americans.”
In response to the rejection of his request to vote on legislation to expand background checks, Murphy said: “We have been waiting for a year for this body to act on the issue of gun violence. And though there are a range of measures that may actually be controversial, this is not one of them.”
Murphy continued: “Many of these are homicides, and many of these are accidental shootings. And all of them are preventable by better policy. Remember, this happens in the United States—nowhere else in the advanced income world—and it's not because we have more mental illness in the United States. There is no evidence of that. It's not because our kids play more video games in the United States. There's no evidence of that. It's not because we spend less money on law enforcement. There is no evidence of that. It's because this country is awash in illegal and dangerous guns. It's because we've made a choice to make it a lot easier for somebody to find a way to a lethal firearm to commit an act of violence.”
Last week, Murphy authored an op-ed in MTV News detailing the growing power and importance of the youth movement in the face Republican refusal to pass common sense gun violence prevention legislation. Murphy also joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a press conference highlighting a year since the House of Representatives passed bipartisan background checks legislation and the Senate’s failure to take it up. In January 2019, Murphy led 40 Senators in introducing the Background Check Expansion Act, companion legislation to H.R.8.
A full transcript of Murphy’s remarks can be found below.
“Thank you, Mr. President.
“Mr. President, I am coming to the floor today, as we have just passed the one year mark since H.R.8., the Bipartisan Background Checks Bill, passed the House of Representatives.
“This is a piece of legislation supported by 90% of the American public. It's hard for anything to enjoy 90% support in this country these days.
“And the data shows us that this is a piece of legislation, [that] if enacted, that would save lives. We have begged and pleaded for this piece of legislation to come before the Senate. I understand that there may not be 60 votes on the Senate to pass the exact piece of legislation supported by the House, but we could engage in a process of amendment, a process of compromise, that could end up saving lives and getting a piece of legislation passed that is supported, as I mentioned, by nine out of ten Americans.
“And so I have some remarks after what I expect will be an objection to my motion from the majority party. But I will ask unanimous consent of my colleagues that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar Number 29, H.R.8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act.
“I further ask that the bill be considered read a third time and passed and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.
“Mr. President, I'm sorry to hear the objection. It's obviously not surprising. We have been waiting for a year for this body to act on the issue of gun violence. And though there are a range of measures that may actually be controversial, this is not one of them. This is not one of them.
“It's really hard to find folks out there in America that object to the idea that somebody should have to prove that they're not a criminal, that they don't have a history of serious mental illness before they purchase a firearm. And the fact is that the longer we wait the more people die.
“There's no piece of legislation that's going to eliminate every single gun death in this country. But, in my state of Connecticut when we pass a universal background checks law, we saw a pretty immediate 40% reduction in gun homicides. In Missouri, when they repealed their universal background checks law, they saw an immediate 25% increase. That is the short-term, immediate rate of return both on the upside and the downside that you get when you take steps to assure that criminals don't get guns – or you take steps to make it easy for criminals to get guns.
“Senator Blumenthal is on the floor with me as well. And he will make remarks, but I have been unable to persuade my colleagues based on the data that we should pass background checks. The data being the broad public support for the measure, the data being about the impact on people's lives that this piece of legislation would have. And so I want to make the case that from just a simple standpoint of humanity, we should care about listening to the American public and passing legislation that will reduce these numbers. This is heartbreaking. 39,000 people a year are dying from gunshot wounds, 3,311 on average a month, 100 a day. The majority of these are suicides. But the data tells us that by making it harder for people to buy guns who shouldn't have them – because of a serious history of mental illness or because of their criminal background—that you'll have less suicides.
“But many of these are homicides, and many of these are accidental shootings. And all of them are preventable by better policy. Remember, this happens in the United States – nowhere else in the advanced income world—and it's not because we have more mental illness in the United States. There is no evidence of that. It's not because our kids play more video games in the United States. There's no evidence of that. It's not because we spend less money on law enforcement. There is no evidence of that. It's because this country is awash in illegal and dangerous guns. It's because we've made a choice to make it a lot easier for somebody to find a way to a lethal firearm to commit an act of violence.
“Every single one of the hundred who die every day is attached to families and friends and neighbors. The data suggests that for everybody that's killed in a gun homicide, there's 20 other people who experienced some kind of life altering diagnosable trauma because of it. And so I want to tell you a few of these stories today. Stories of people who over the last year have been amongst this statistic, 40,000 people who died from gunshot wounds.
“In March 2019, one month after H.R.8 got here to the Senate, Shelby Verderosa was home with her six month old daughter when she was shot and killed in Phoenix, Arizona. As a new mom, Shelby was ‘doing everything she possibly could to make sure her daughter had the best life,’ said her cousin. One month after H.R.8 passed the Senate she was shot and killed when she was home with her six month old daughter.
“Lamar Sharp was at a picnic in Kansas City in April, two months after HR.8 got here to the Senate, when he heard gunshots. Instead of running away from the gunshots towards safety, he ran to save his friend's two year old grandson, and he was shot three times. He died five days before his 32nd birthday, two months after H.R.8 got to the Senate floor.
“In May, three months after the background checks bill got to the Senate, three LGBTQ young people were shot in Detroit. Alunte Davis, Timothy Blancher and Paris Cameron were known for being funny. They were known for being wildly charismatic. Police believe that their sexual orientation and gender identity were factors in their murder.
“A month later, four months after H.R.8 got here to the Senate, Durelle Moxley was killed on Father's Day when a shooting broke out in his neighborhood. Durelle and his wife had three young children. His friend said he was really proud to be a father – he was pumped. He was really celebrating Fathers Day.
“In July, five months after H.R.8 got to the Senate, five months after sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk awaiting action, Julianna Carr was killed by her brother in a murder suicide at a housewarming party in Katy, Texas. She left behind a husband and two children who she called her greatest loves.
“Jurnee Thompson was eight years old when he was shot in August, six months after the Senate got H.R.8, six months of doing nothing on a bill with 90% public support. Jurnee was the 14th child to be shot and killed in St. Louis alone last summer. Her dad said that ‘losing her was one of the biggest fears of my life and now I'm living it as a reality.’
“In September, seven months, seven months after H.R.8 showed up in the Senate and the Senate did nothing with it, Usher Hanns was 17 years old when he was shot and killed. He was a senior at Weaver High School in Connecticut. He was a member of Hartford's Proud Drill Drum and Dance Corps. His mom said, ‘He was a good son. He always made me smile. He's a joyful kid.’
“Deirdre Zaccardi was murdered by her husband Joseph in Abington, Pennsylvania in October, eight months after H.R.8 got to the Senate. He also shot their three children, Alexis, Nathaniel and Catherine, before turning the gun on himself. The Abington police chief said that their deaths were a horrific event that no one should ever see.
“Nine months after H.R.8 got here, in November, 15 year old Gracie Anne Muehlberger was shot by a classmate with a semi-automatic, untraceable ghost gun in Santa Clarita, California. Hundreds attended Gracie's memorial service. Her friends described her as an independent spirit.
“In December, 10 months, 10 months after the House passed H.R.8, 10 months of doing nothing with it here in the Senate, Sgt. Chris Brewster was responding to a domestic violence call in Houston. When he got there, he was shot by a suspect fleeing the scene. He was a devoted husband, he loved making people laugh, his friends described him as wonderfully weird.
“In January, 11 months after H.R.8 got to the Senate, Gregory Reeves was killed. He had retired after 22 years as a state trooper. A career that he called his dream job. He was killed in Illinois. His friends described him as the most gentle, kind hearted person you'd ever know.
“In February, February of this year, two sisters, Abbaney and Deja Matts, were shot by Abbaney’s ex-boyfriend in a dormitory in Commerce, Texas. ‘I just want people to know that they were fun,‘ said their mom.
“And just last week in Milwaukee, almost exactly a year since H.R.8 came to the Senate, five people were shot on the campus of Molson Coors. People who went to work on a normal Wednesday, and whose families will never get to hug them or tell them goodbye – or hear their voices again. Shot and killed in a workplace shooting.
“Senator Blumenthal and I are not going to give up. We're not going to give up because of what we've been through in Connecticut, having experienced and live[d] through the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook, but also what we see happening every single day in places that we represent. Murders that happen in Hartford and Bridgeport and New Haven. Murders that happen in rural areas of our state as well. Accidental shootings, homicides, suicides, nowhere else other than the United States does this epidemic of carnage happen at this rate than the United States of America. And it happens because we have made a choice. We made a choice to let the gun industry run Washington, D.C., to give them veto power over gun policy that has helped their bottom line, that has made gun company executives rich, but it has resulted in 40,000 people a year dying. 100 a day.
“And so I will continue to come down to the floor and tell the stories of those who have been lost. And I am deeply, deeply sorry that when we try to bring unanimous consent requests to the Senate to have a debate or a vote on H.R.8., we keep hearing objections.
“We don't run the Senate. Democrats are not in charge. We don't get to set the agenda. Mitch McConnell, Senator McConnell does. Republicans who are part of leadership do. And all you have to do is bring this bill to the floor. Let's have a debate on an expanded background checks proposal. I get it that the version of the bill that passed the House might not have 60 votes here, but why don't we at least try to find common ground? Why don't we sit down and do what the Senate used to do: find compromise that makes the country a better place. The fact that we aren't even trying to find bipartisan agreement on a background checks proposal is absolutely heartbreaking. Not to me or to Senator Blumenthal. It's heartbreaking to the survivors and the family members of the folks who aren't with us any longer. It's an insult to them that we are not even lifting a finger to try to make this country a safer place.
“I yield the floor.”