Blumenthal, Murphy urge gun reform flanked by victims’ families


Members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, flanked by family members of gun violence victims nationwide, marked the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting Thursday by advocating for gun reform laws that would reduce mass shootings and other deadly incidents.

At a press conference attended by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, as well as U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and John Larson, activists urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, to call a vote on a proposed assault weapons ban — and for Congress to pass the bill.

The event included dozens of people whose family members nationwide were killed by guns or who themselves survived mass shootings. Each spoke briefly about their experience and shared photos of their loved ones, before punctuating their remarks with the words, “Pass the ban.” One woman wore a sweatshirt reading, “Gun tolerance is killing us.”

“We need to save our communities and families, so please pass the ban,” said a mother whose daughter was killed by a stray bullet.

Ashbey Beasley, a survivor of the mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill. earlier this year, read a letter gun advocates have sent to every U.S. senator, urging passage of gun reform measures.

“Gun violence is a public health emergency,” she said. “A set of strong, comprehensive violence prevention laws are needed to protect all Americans in our nation.”

Later, Manuel Oliver, the father of a student killed in the 2018 Parkland, Fla. mass shooting, asked lawmakers to imagine their children as the victims of gun violence, listing some senators’ children by name.

Though both Democratic and Republican senators have said the assault weapons ban does not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, gun reform advocates have asked Schumer to call a vote anyway so that lawmakers who oppose the bill would have to go on the record with their position.

After the procession of family members, Blumenthal, Murphy and DeLauro shared reflections on Sandy Hook and the decade since.

“There really are no words to match the tableau of tragedy that you have just seen and heard, except to say no one in America is safe, no place is secure, no community is immune from the tragedy of gun violence,” Blumenthal said. “We need to come together to make sure that common-sense, sensible measures to stop gun violence are made the law of the land.”

“I look at this room, and I look at the people gathered, and I think about the heartbreak,” DeLauro said. 

The press conference Thursday came a day after Blumenthal, Murphy and other lawmakers attended the 10th Annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, organized by the Newtown Action Alliance, in a church just outside Washington D.C.

Next week will officially mark a decade since the Newtown shooting, in which a 20-year-old with a semi-automatic rifle killed 20 children and six adult staff members. Despite increasingly urgent calls for gun reform following the massacre, Congress failed for years to pass significant legislation, before enacting moderate reforms this summer following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, with the support of all congressional Democrats and some Republicans.

On Thursday, DeLauro touted the bipartisan bill passed this summer as “the best we have been able to do in decades in this country in gun safety,” while Murphy argued that the law is already working, citing an FBI brief on “dangerous individuals” who’d been stopped from getting guns due to the new legislation.

“I understand that law was not close to enough, but it is saving lives as we speak,” Murphy said.

Still, all three lawmakers urged Congress to pass additional legislation measures to curb gun violence, while encouraging activists to continue in their efforts.

“Your advocacy is what is driving gun violence prevention, and it is enabling us to break the grip of the NRA and the gun lobby and the gun industry on the Congress,” Blumenthal said. “If Congress does its job, we can overcome those forces.”

Murphy, who has become a national face of the gun reform movement while working closely with anti-gun activists, thanked the advocates and family members in attendance for continuing to apply pressure, making gun legislation possible.

“I’m sure there are days when you think to yourself, ‘I can’t do both. I can’t deal with how crippling this grief is and advocate at the same time,'” he said. “I don’t know how you do it, but we are grateful.”

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