Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) will introduce a bill to close gun background check loopholes on Wednesday, less than four weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history in Las Vegas — even though he knows it has almost no chance to pass.
Murphy, a leading champion of gun law reform ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in his old congressional district, told TPM in an interview that the new bill is a way to try to “strike fear” into Republican lawmakers opposing popular gun reforms and the National Rifle Association, even if chances of passing it are “slim.”
“I wish it didn’t feel like Groundhog Day — but one day it won’t,” he told TPM, arguing that the tide of public pressure was beginning to turn against the NRA. “Our movement is getting stronger and stronger. By introducing this bill we give Republicans a choice: They can sign on, they can introduce an alternative, or they can stand on the sidelines… and make this an issue in their 2018 reelection
“There’s no great social change movement in this country that didn’t have failures before it had success,” he said. “Putting this bill in the hopper and using it as a pressure point for the movement is part of what grows our strength.”
The bill, which would make background checks nearly universal on commercial gun sales, is almost identical to a section of the gun control bill Democrats introduced that went nowhere last year. And it’s a more restrictive version than the bill introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that failed by a wide margin back in 2013 — when Democrats had control of the Senate and the White House.
Murphy admitted this legislation wouldn’t have stopped Las Vegas — but said the point was to stop future gun crime, not try to react every time a large-scale shooting spree hits the U.S.
“The NRA wants the anti-gun violence movement to only focus on the policy change that would have addressed the last shooting of victims numbering over 20. You cannot build a political movement if you change the issue you care about every three months and the gun industry knows that. That’s why the gun industry said after Sandy Hook, background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Sandy Hook murders,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is pass legislation that is prospective. I can’t pass anything that would reverse time and stop Las Vegas.”
But Murphy is convinced that things are starting to turn in favor of gun control, citing polling that 90 percent of Americans want to expand background checks, that three out of the four major statewide gun control referendums passed last year, and that the movement won all three Senate races it focused on last fall, in Pennsylvania, Nevada and New Hampshire. He also pointed to the NRA’s recent openness to a change in the rules to ban “bump stocks” that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to turn guns into automatic weapons during his murder spree that left 58 people dead and 546 injured.
“Just three weeks ago the gun lobby since the first time I’ve been in Congress suggested a willingness to change gun laws,” he told TPM. “The ground is shifting but you need legislation like this to rally people to the side of those who wants change and against those who don’t want change.”