(WASHINGTON) — In the aftermath of the Texas elementary school shooting, there are “serious” bipartisan negotiations underway on a new gun law intended to reduce future killings, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Sunday.
“It’s inconceivable to me that we have not passed significant federal legislation trying to address the tragedy of gun violence in this nation,” Murphy told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl. “The pace of everyday gun violence has dramatically escalated over the past two years.”
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed after a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, not even two weeks after 10 Black people were killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that authorities described as a “racially motivated hate crime.”
After the Texas school shooting, Murphy gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor calling for legislative action on gun violence. “What are we doing?” he asked his colleagues, adding, “There have been more mass shootings than days in the year.”
The shooting at Robb Elementary School is now the second deadliest K-12 school shooting after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which 20 children and six staff members were killed in Newtown, Connecticut.
Murphy was finishing the end of his term as the congressman of that community when that shooting occurred in December 2012 and joined the Senate just weeks later. He’s since been a passionate advocate for gun law reform — an issue that faces GOP resistance in Congress, with conservatives arguing more laws are misplaced.
Ten years after the Sandy Hook shooting, Karl asked Murphy on Sunday, “What has been accomplished?”
“My hope is that this time is different,” Murphy said. “I get it. Every single time, after one of these mass shootings, there’s talks in Washington and they never succeed. But there are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have ever seen since Sandy Hook.”
Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger is one Republican who says his views on gun control changed after a series of mass shootings. He told Karl that “raising the age of gun purchase to 21 is a no brainer.”
“If you look at the Parkland shooting, you look at Buffalo, you look at this shooting, these are people under the age of 21,” Kinzinger said. “We know that the human brain develops and matures a lot between the age of 18 and 21. We just raised — without really so much as a blink — the age of purchasing cigarettes federally to 21.”
Murphy said negotiations with Republican senators have included discussion of so-called “red flag” laws, expansion of the federal background check system, safe storage, mental health resources and increased security funding for schools. “A package,” he said, “that really in the end could have a significant downward pressure on gun violence in this country and break the logjam.”
Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran and current member of the Air National Guard, held an A-rating from the National Rifle Association until he began advocating for gun control measures including the banning of bump stocks. He still owns an AR-15, which many gun control advocates have been calling to ban.
“Help me understand, how did you go from being somebody that was right in line with the gun lobby on this to somebody who thinks it’s time to change these laws?” Karl asked.
“It’s a journey of getting sick of seeing the mass shootings,” Kinzinger said. “I’m a strong defender of the Second Amendment. And one of the things I believe — for some reason, it is a very rare thing — is that as a person that appreciates and who believes in the Second Amendment, we have to be the ones putting forward reasonable solutions to gun violence.”
Some states have passed gun control legislation in the wake of mass shootings. After 17 people were killed in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that state’s Republican-led legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who now serves in the Senate alongside Murphy, raised the minimum age to purchase a long gun to 21, improved background checks and banned bump stocks.
“Couldn’t that be a model?” Karl asked Murphy. “I mean, if [then-Gov.] Rick Scott could sign that into law in Florida, and support that in Florida, why couldn’t that pass in the United States Senate?”
“The Florida law is a good law and it’s a signal of what’s possible, right?” Murphy replied. “It’s also proof that Republicans could take on the gun lobby — because the NRA opposed that measure — and still get reelected.”
Kinzinger said the NRA has “gone from defending rights of gun owners… [to becoming] a grifting scam.” (The group is being sued by New York’s Attorney General Letitia James, who alleges financial misconduct. The NRA claims she is politically motivated.)
“The right to keep and bear arms is important to Republicans. It is to me, too,” Kinzinger said on Sunday. “But for some reason we’ve got locked in this position of ‘what are things where we can make a difference?'”
In Florida, Kinzinger said, “There was no blowback. Let’s do that kind of stuff now.”
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