Daniel Zhao

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the most comprehensive gun control bill in decades. Now, Connecticut’s senators are pushing to pass the same reform bill in the upper house.

The legislation at stake passed in the House by a margin of 240–190 on Feb. 27. One month earlier, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, D-Conn., introduced the Senate version of the bill in conjunction with 40 other senators, including Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The law, which is now under consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, seeks to expand federal background checks for all gun sales — including unlicensed or private sellers. According to Murphy, up to a quarter of gun sales in the United States occur without a background check.

“We have already seen background checks save lives in Connecticut, but guns have no respect for state borders or state laws,” Blumenthal said in a statement coinciding with the reintroduction of the bill. “Expanding federal background checks — a common sense idea supported by more than 90 percent of Americans — would protect American families and prevent senseless tragedy.”

On March 6, Murphy and Blumenthal, in conjunction with 38 senators, penned a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The letter called upon Graham to allow a hearing on the proposed legislation “as soon as possible.”

The House also passed a bill last week that closes the “Charleston loophole” in the background check system that allowed gunman Dylann Roof to purchase the firearm that he then used to kill nine people in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. According to this loophole, if three business days pass without a verdict from the FBI on a background check to buy a gun, the dealer is allowed to sell the gun without waiting for a response. Nearly 3,000 guns were sold to people with criminal records under this “delayed denial” provision, according to an FBI operations report from 2016.

Blumenthal and Murphy have been among the Senate’s strongest supporters of comprehensive gun control measures since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. This shooting resulted in the deaths of 20 children between ages 6 and 7.

“Sandy Hook is in my heart & the families on my mind as the House takes this historic step toward making America safer,” Blumenthal tweeted Feb. 27. “Today’s victory is a testament to your advocacy, courage, & strength. The fight continues.”

Murphy has an F rating from the National Rifle Association and a 100 percent rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He staged one of the top 10 longest filibusters in U.S. history in June 2016 after a lack of gun control progress following the Orlando nightclub shooting — the deadliest mass shooting in the country at the time.

According to the Pew Research Center, 30 percent of American adults said they personally own a gun, and 57 percent believe that gun laws should be stricter. Eighty-nine percent of both Democrats and Republicans believe that people with mental illnesses should not be able to buy guns, while around 85 percent of members of both parties say that people on no-fly lists or watchlists should be prevented from purchasing firearms. Roughly 97 percent of Americans support background checks to increase gun control, according to Senate Democrats.

Nathalie Bussemaker | nathalie.bussemaker@yale.edu