Sen. Chris Murphy says Democrats 'have a chance' to pass background check legislation in the wake of the Atlanta and Boulder shootings

  • Sen. Chris Murphy said Democrats had a “chance” to pass stronger background check legislation.
  • Murphy told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he was working to get 60 votes in support of stronger background checks. 
  • He said convincing Republicans to support background checks was the first step toward garnering support for other reforms. 
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Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said Sunday that Democrats had a “chance” at passing stricter background check laws following the deadly shootings this month in Atlanta and Boulder. 

“I’m not interested in getting 50 votes in the Senate, I’m interested in getting 60 votes. That is what’s required to pass legislation today,” Murphy told NBC News’ Chuck Todd during an appearance on “Meet the Press.”

“And so I’ve been instructed by Sen. Schumer to work over the next several weeks with Democrats and willing Republicans to try to get a bill that expands background checks that can pass,” he added.

Murphy said he believed the political landscape for strengthening background checks for gun sales has “shifted dramatically” since 2013 when the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, rejected a bill that would’ve expanded background checks. 

“Don’t count us out,” Murphy said, noting that Congress had been poised to make some progress on gun reform following the 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton before Trump’s first impeachment shifted the national focus.

 

The renewed calls for stricter federal gun legislation follow two deadly mass shootings in the US within the same week. On March 16, a gunman in the Atlanta area killed eight people, most of whom were Asian Americans, during an attack on three spas. Police said the shooter bought the weapon the same day as the killings.

Then, on March 22, a gunman in Boulder Colorado opened fire at a King Sooper’s grocery store, killing 10 people. Police said the Boulder shooter bought an AR-15 style weapon just six days before the shooting.

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from Republicans in the Senate who don’t want to fight this fight any longer because the NRA’s authority is fading, the anti-gun violence movement’s impact is increasing,” Murphy said. “I think we have a chance.”

Murphy told Todd that “we should be having a broader conversation” about gun law reforms, but said gaining support for stronger background check legislation among Republicans was imperative to opening the door to other legislative efforts.

“I think right now our best chance to get something passed is universal background checks, and I think the theory of the case is that once we convince Republicans that the sky doesn’t fall for you politically when you support a reasonable expansion of something like background checks, you can move on to other interventions.” 

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