National Press Club

Sen. Chris Murphy says tide is shifting toward gun safety measures

September 8, 2016 | By Ken Dalecki |

Sen. Chris Murphy gestures at a Club Luncheon.

Sen. Chris Murphy gestures at a Club Luncheon.

Photo/Image: Al Teich

Senator Chris Murphy, a strong gun control advocate since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, told a National Press Club Luncheon that "it's just a matter of time before the laws of this country catch up to the will of 90 percent of Americans."

The Connecticut Democrat, who in June led a 15-hour Senate filibuster to force votes on two gun control bills, said Thursday that his action and a subsequent House Democratic sit-in over gun control "helped grow a political movement that is now more powerful than ever."

He succeeded in forcing votes on bills to require gun show sale background checks and barring anyone on a no-fly list from buying assault weapons, but both were defeated by Senate Republicans.

Murphy urged advocates to focus their efforts on electing pro-gun control candidates in November. He said the most winnable legislative issue was expanding background checks.

He cited Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's willingness to talk about gun control in traditionally pro-gun states and conservative Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's support for expanding background checks as evidence that progress is being made on his side of the issue.

Murphy accused the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups of being "a spokesman for gun makers, not gun owners" because even most gun owners support stronger background checks. He said more control over assault-style weapons are needed because "terrorist organizations now see the assault weapon rather than the hijacked airplane or the improvised explosive device as their primary opportunity for mass slaughter in America."

Murphy said GOP opposition to strong gun control was rooted in an anti-government ideology and "abstract concepts of liberty and freedom and revolution." He cited the "era of cable news" for helping foster an anti-government atmosphere and that many see gun ownership as "the guarantor of the people's right to cast off a second coming of autocracy."

He said Republicans "want to preserve the right of revolution, as a means of showing how much they truly hate the current government, and that limits on other constitutional rights do not cause the kind of opposition from conservatives as do gun control measures.

"There is no movement among First Amendment purists insisting that laws banning child pornography or yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater are a slippery slope to tyranny," Murphy said.

Murphy said that gun control measures do reduce gun deaths, including a 40 percent drop in firearm-related homicides in Connecticut after adoption of a tough licensing law in 1995; 46 percent fewer women shot to death in states with universal background checks, and 51 percent fewer gun suicides in states with waiting periods.