In the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation and New Haven’s police chief gathered Friday to demand that Congress take action against gun violence.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, joined New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 for a press conference outside the New Haven Police Department headquarters on Friday morning. The three Connecticut legislators have been among the most active proponents of gun control legislation in recent years. On Friday, roughly 100 members of the Greater New Haven community came out to show their support for more stringent gun control legislation.
“In no other country is there mass shooting after mass shooting with 20, and 30, and 50 people perishing in a matter of minutes,” said Murphy, who has emerged as one of Congress’s most vocal gun control advocates. “This epidemic of gun violence, both the mass shootings and the reality of living in many of this country’s cities is, unfortunately, uniquely American.”
For Connecticut, that claim hits especially close to home. The 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — where 26 people, including 20 six- and seven-year-old children, were killed — is still fresh in the minds of many Connecticut political leaders, few more so than Murphy.
In June 2016, Murphy — who, as a member of the U.S. House, represented Connecticut’s 5th District, which includes Sandy Hook Elementary School — catapulted into the national spotlight when he launched a 15-hour filibuster in protest of his colleagues’ lack of action after the Orlando nightclub shooting, which bolstered his national reputation as a progressive advocate. Murphy was joined by 38 of his fellow Democrats over the course of the nightlong speech, including Blumenthal, who stood beside him for hours.
That same month, DeLauro was part of a demonstration in the House chamber when she, along with fellow Democratic lawmakers, staged a sit-in due to the same issue.
Together with a group of more than 30 Senate Democrats, Murphy and Blumenthal are co-sponsoring a ban on bump stock devices, replacements for standard rifle stocks that allow firearms to shoot rapidly and continuously. Stopping these devices, which magnified the carnage in Las Vegas, “is the least we can do” Blumenthal said.
On Thursday, he and Murphy introduced a bill that would repeal 2005 legislation protecting firearm dealers and manufacturers from being held liable when their products are used to commit crimes.
In a Friday tweet, Murphy mentioned that he plans to introduce a new universal background check bill in the coming weeks. At the press conference, he defended the effectiveness of gun control laws, citing Connecticut as evidence: The state has the second strongest gun laws in the nation and the fifth lowest rate of gun deaths, he said.
Murphy said he is convinced that true change will come not from inside Washington but from beyond the Beltway. It is people coming out and showing support for gun control laws who will make the difference, he added. When constituents signal their overwhelming support for gun control, Murphy said, lawmakers will feel pressure to support stricter measures for fear of losing their seats.
“We are furious beyond words that our colleagues continue to offer compassion and thoughts and prayers and no action,” Murphy said. “We do not suffer from a deficit of compassion in this country, we suffer from a deficit of action.”
Blumenthal noted during his remarks that New Haven is no stranger to gun violence. Just last month, he said, two local police officers, Eric Pessino and Scott Shumway, were shot in a domestic violence dispute. The officers were discharged from the hospital within a day of the Sept. 23 shooting.
Blumenthal further praised the proactive and steadfast nature of local and state law enforcement officials who have worked to halt the increase of gun violence, citing the Elm City’s gun-buyback program, under which the city pays residents to turn in unwanted firearms. The program is set to end on Dec. 16.
In his address, Campbell stressed that everyone at the event — citizens, law enforcement officials and legislators — is responsible for pressuring Congress to stand up to violence and mass shootings.
For Campbell, as for Blumenthal, Murphy and many other top Democratic legislators, the need for gun control is obvious.
“We’re asking for common sense legislation so that situations like what happened in Las Vegas or what happened in this state up in Sandy Hook can never happen again” he said.
Citizens at the press conference held signs that read “Common Sense Gun Laws Now” and “Kiss our ‘CTEffect’ NRA.” One of the activists in attendance, Po Murray — the chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, a grassroots organization formed after the Newtown tragedy — said more people need to support the measures discussed at the event.
“Our congressional delegation have been champions of change since the day of the Sandy Hook tragedy … and we need to be here to support their efforts,” she said.
Murray hopes that people around the country will continue to rise up in support of this issue, as it is “unacceptable” that around 500,000 Americans have been killed or injured by guns since December 2012.
After the press conference, the Newtown Action Alliance organized for audience members to write notes of support on a banner that will be sent to those who lost loved ones in the Las Vegas shooting.
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