Courtesy of Jabez Choi

Sen. Chris Murphy gave a talk to Law School students on Monday night about his book, emphasizing the “epidemic” of gun violence plaguing the country.

Murphy, in an event run by the Law School’s Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy, discussed his book “The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy.” The discussion was conducted through a Zoom call on Monday night and was moderated by Jessica Quinter LAW ’23. The talk was originally planned for last October but was postponed due to Murphy’s work schedule.

Murphy began his talk by describing the emotional toll of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, sharing first-hand, personal experience from the tragedy.

“While I was [previously] very intellectually invested in the issues I worked on,” Murphy said. “I admit missing the emotional connection to an issue … As someone who was outside the room as family members were being told what had happened [at Sandy Hook], I was completely transformed.”

He later also described the shooting of Shane Oliver — a 20-year-old Hartford resident who was fatally shot in 2012 — as another tragedy that emotionally connected him to the issue of gun violence.

In the years following the two shootings, Murphy has become a champion of gun control legislation in the U.S. Senate. In 2016, he gave one of the longest filibusters in a push for stronger gun control, speaking on the Senate floor for over 15 hours.

“I’m certainly going to consider myself a failure unless I deliver some meaningful change here,” he said.

After pushing for gun control legislation following the Sandy Hook shooting, Murphy noted that he was “met with howls from African American families who were wondering where the hell [he] had been.” At his talk on Monday night, he acknowledged that gun violence had long been persistent in communities of color, but he did not attribute gun violence solely to those communities. Instead, he classified gun violence as an issue of poverty. 

The senator also mentioned that 2020 was an “abnormally” fatal year in recent memory, citing a rise in handgun purchases and economic desperation as driving factors of the increase. The number of murders in the United States increased by 30%, with 77% of murders in 2020 being attributed to some form of gun violence. Murphy pointed out the trend between poverty and violence, but did not mention specific data in his explanation. 

Murphy advocates for universal background checks and universal gun registration laws. However, he does not think that guns should be taken away from citizens, unlike his more progressive peers. Quinter pressed the senator on why he has maintained a more moderate approach to gun control legislation, to which Murphy responded that his “end goal is not the confiscation of all firearms.”

Murphy further stated that he does not believe that there could be legislation far-reaching enough to ban all guns. He said that his two immediate goals in gun control legislation are to better regulate the types of firearms available to the public and the types of people who can own these guns. He added that it would be politically beneficial for progressives to abandon the goal of confiscating firearms.

“The opposing side, the NRA … builds membership based on the argument that ‘Chris Murphy is lying to you, that what he really wants to do is take your guns,’” he said. 

After the initial interview between Quinter and Murphy, the audience was allowed to ask questions. When asked by an audience member to describe what the ideal United States looked like in terms of gun control legislation, Murphy reinforced that he did not believe in taking the ability to buy a gun away from citizens.

He further emphasized the need for universal background checks, expanded registration laws and a “certain class” of weapons, in reference to assault rifles such as AR-15s, to be taken “off the streets.” 

Murphy ended the discussion by saying that the crisis of gun violence is the “most significant” social crisis facing the nation. He highlighted the importance of individual action — citing the story of Anne Marie Murphy, a teacher who died protecting her students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“If Anne Marie can do that,” he said. “What can we do? Can’t we give a couple hours a week to the cause of gun violence to make sure that no one has to make the choice that Anne did in that classroom?”

Murphy’s book was published in 2020.

JABEZ CHOI