Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have begun ‘serious’ negotiations on finding a bipartisan solution to rising gun violence, Senator Chris Murphy confirmed on Sunday.
The Connecticut Democrat said he was ‘in touch’ with members of the GOP including Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and others on both sides of the aisle in the wake of a horrific mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas where a gunman with an assault rifle killed 19 elementary school students and their two teachers.
‘We have continued to work throughout the weekend,’ Murphy said on ABC News’ This Week.
‘These are serious negotiations and we are going to continue to meet through early next week to try to find some common ground.’
The lawmaker, who was a House Representative from Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District when 26 people were killed at the local Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, said he was also engaging with a legislator who shares a similar experience.
Murphy told ABC on Sunday that he’s approached Republican Senator Rick Scott about how, as governor of Florida, Scott was able to get several gun control measures passed after the Marjorie Taylor Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.
That includes raising the minimum age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21, banning bump stocks and other preventative laws – despite the influence of the vast gun lobby.
Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said a bipartisan plan on gun control could emerge as early as next week
‘The Florida law is a good law and it’s a signal of what’s possible, right? It married together changes to Florida’s gun laws with some significant investments in mental health and school security,’ Murphy said.
‘And I, you know, had a long conversation with Senator Scott last week, and had him tell me the story of how they were able to pass that legislation and get Republicans to support it.’
He added, ‘It also proved that Republicans could take on the gun lobby because the NRA opposed that measure and still get re-elected, which has been the case I’ve been making to Republicans for a decade.’
Murphy anticipated the new legislation would not ‘mirror’ Florida’s but it ‘certainly is a model.’
‘Listen, I’ve been clear – I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,’ Murphy said at another point. ‘Of course, I would love to ban assault weapons. I think that’s probably the most impactful way to stop these mass shootings.’
‘I would love universal background checks – that’s the best way to try to curb the level of violence that happens in my city of Hartford and other cities like it across the country.’
Both of those measures would be a tough sell for the majority of Republicans. GOP lawmakers have for years insisted that the troubling rise in mass shootings committed by young men is a mental health crisis and a lack of school security, rather than an issue of firearms.
Talks have been brought to the table with urgency after a gunman killed 19 elementary school students and their two teachers in Uvalde, Texas last week
A woman prays at a makeshift memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 28
Aware of the disparity, Murphy continued: ‘But, what we’re talking about is not insignificant. Inside this room we’re talking about red flag laws, we’re talking about strengthening and expanding the background check system, if not universal background checks. We’re talking about safe storage.’
‘And yes, we’re also talking about mental health resources and more security dollars for schools,’ he said.
Murphy said the final piece of legislation ‘in the end, could have a significant downward pressure on gun violence in this country.’
The Democrat hoped it would also ‘break the log jam’ of hyper-partisanship in the Senate.
‘Maybe that’s the most important thing we could do, is just show that progress is possible and that the sky doesn’t fall for Republicans if they support some of these common sense measures,’ Murphy said.
He said the legislation could be ready as early as next week, when lawmakers return from Memorial Day recess.
Hours after the massacre at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday last week, an impassioned Murphy took to the Senate floor to demand of his colleagues: ‘What are we doing?’
Murphy had been moved to make gun violence a central priority of his in 2012, when he witnessed families’ reactions firsthand being told that their six and seven-year-olds had been shot dead by a gunman with an assault rifle.
‘Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate, why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer, is as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?’ he implored.
His Sunday interview came after CNN reported that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he directed Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, to work with Democrats toward a solution on gun violence.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would force a vote on gun control legislation when Congress returned in June after its recess.
Meanwhile President Joe Biden is in Uvalde, Texas on Sunday to meet with families of victims and survivors of Tuesday’s shooting.
He and First Lady. Dr. Jill Biden will pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside of Robb Elementary School, where the slaughter took place.
It comes amid outrage over revelations that police waited nearly an hour outside of a reportedly locked classroom while the gunman was inside with the children and two teachers – and while multiple students made frantic 911 calls asking for cops to help.
The president and first lady were clad in black when they arrived at Delaware Air National Guard Base early on Sunday morning
They’re headed for an all-day visit to Uvalde, Texas to honor the victims of the mass shooting there last week
Footage has emerged of officers detaining angry and scared parents trying to get into the school themselves after pleading with law enforcement to act.
Cornyn defended the police on Saturday, writing on Twitter that attacks against them are ‘destructive, distracting, and unfair.’
Meanwhile, less than 300 miles away from Uvalde, Second Amendment advocates and big name Republicans descended on Houston for the annual National Rifle Association meeting.
Cornyn had reportedly pulled out of the event before the shooting. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who was slated to appear in-person, delivered a video message instead.
The Lone Star state’s junior senator – and a potential 2024 nominee – Ted Cruz, did appear on stage at the NRA event.
‘Tragedies like the event of this week are a mirror forcing us to ask hard questions, demanding that we see where our culture is failing,’ Cruz said.
‘We must not react to evil and tragedy by abandoning the Constitution or infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens.’
Former President Donald Trump accused Biden of exploiting the tragedy by calling for common sense gun control, telling his supporters that ‘when Joe Biden blamed the gun lobby, he was talking about Americans like you.’
‘The existence of evil is one of the very best reasons to arm law-abiding citizens,’ he also said.