And whatever can pass the Senate 50-50 as the midterm campaign season resumes is all but doomed for the powerful network of gun safety advocates who have seen Congress mostly wrestle On the question. This includes Po Murray, leader of the Newtown Action Alliance, who since Sandy Hook has participated in hundreds of similar events that Murphy and Blumenthal have attended.
“I think Senator Murphy understands that we won’t take a bill and accept a bill that does nothing – basically, a Republican bill that shows they’ve done something,” Murray said in an interview. “That they can go home and say, ‘We did this.’ It makes no sense.”
Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, has a little more hope for gun safety legislation after last week’s shooting of 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde , in Texas. One of the most influential voices in the gun violence prevention movement, Barden said he supports Murphy’s argument that passing just one gun bill could pave the way. to much more important ones.
Still, Barden fears Republicans will go along with a narrow proposal that allows them to take credit for the action and then cut off future talks.
“We can’t just tick the box. But we can’t do nothing either,” Barden said in an interview. “If we can do something that will be substantial and save lives, then we have to do it.”
On the surface, gun safety parallels other progressive priorities that have seen movement in the Democratic House to die out in the Senate since the election of Joe Biden — think police reform and the law of voting. Gun reform advocates like Barden and Murray began working on some of the same potential compromises now on the table long before this Congress. That long road means they both have faith in their state’s senatorial duo, with whom they’ve worked closely since 2012.
It also means that Murphy, Blumenthal and gun activists share the same painful skepticism engendered by a decade of multiple condemned pushes from Congress after mass shootings. In recent years, this has included universal background checks, “no steal, no buy”, replacement action bans and the so-called Charleston escape after a racist gunman killed nine black worshipers. None of these have been enacted.
Speaking to a line of TV cameras in Hartford, Murphy recalled when he, then-President Donald Trump and then-Attorney General Bill Barr were in the final stages of a deal to expand background checks after a shooting in El Paso in 2019 killed 23 people. But the negotiations suddenly died, and ultimately Congress passed nothing. (Barr pointed to Democratic moves to impeach Trump at the time.)
“I’m sober about our chances,” Murphy said. “I had the ball under me enough times to be realistic.”
Blumenthal also knows how difficult it is to garner enough GOP support to make change, even though Democrats now control both houses of Congress and the White House. Connecticut’s longtime attorney general has now spent three-and-a-half years working with Republicans, like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, on legislation to get states to pass “red flag” laws via federal grants.
He and Murphy are now knee-deep in yet another post-Uvalde effort: A bipartisan group of about 10 senators are meeting in person, on Zoom and by phone over a potential package. Any deal must be ready by next week – a quick deadline for Congress imposed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is eager to register Republicans for opposing grassroots weapons measures on fire if they abandon the negotiating table.
A key subset of that group met virtually on Tuesday afternoon: Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Thom Tillis (RN.C.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Murphy. In a statement afterward, Cornyn called the discussion “very constructive” and said their aides would continue to talk to work out the details — which can sometimes be congressional code to keep the talks going smoothly.
Blumenthal clarified that their reach is not limited to a small corner of the Senate GOP.
“We have a handful of Republicans, but we need 10,” Blumenthal said, declining to mention who else he’s calling this week. A big goal, he said, is to “show my fellow Republicans that voting for certain common sense measures is not politically suicidal.”
The end result, he added, “will be less than we want, that’s for sure. But if it’s a step that leads to other steps, it will be a good start.
While the Senate seeks a deal, the House is moving forward with its own gun safety package. Many anti-gun violence activists are thrilled with what they see on this side of the Capitol: bills to raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon, to require safe gun storage, to increase penalties for gun smugglers, banning the purchase of new “bump stocks” and more.
The House plan does not include a ban on the class of firearms known as military-style assault weapons, such as those used in the nation’s deadliest shootings. As many as 15 House Democrats oppose the restriction, some activists count, more than enough to sink the legislation.
The package is still more than Senate Republicans are willing to consider. If the upper house of Congress fails to reach a compromise, the post-Uvalde gun debate will shift to the same ground on which Democrats are already pinning their hopes to preserve abortion access: mid- terms, where they still hope to defy historical trends and retain their majority in the Senate, at least.
Activists like Sandy Hook, shooting survivor Cindy Carlson, say she and her fellow organizers will take a long view no matter what, working to elect more pro-reform Democrats. fire arms.
“I have this silver lining… But I’m also lucid,” said Carlson, a Sandy Hook librarian who now leads the local Newtown chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Even though we don’t have this national, cathartic bill passed in the Senate – if you look in cities, towns and states, little things are changing. Orders change. Public safety laws change.
And like Carlson, Barden says he’s more focused on the upcoming election. Summing up his appeals to other parents, Barden said he points to the popularity of many gun safety measures and urges them “to get involved and tell your elected officials this matters to people.”
“The polls keep telling us that,” he said, asking his peers, “Where are you?”