Sen. Chris Murphy seeks ‘common ground’ on new gun laws in wake of Texas school shooting

A day after a massacre at a Texas elementary school took the lives of 19 children and two teachers, the shooting in Texas has renewed calls for more gun regulations as Congress remains gridlocked on the issue. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy represents Connecticut, where the deadliest elementary school shooting in American history happened in 2012. He joins Judy Woodruff from Capitol Hill to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have been hearing, the shooting in Texas has renewed calls for more gun regulations. But Congress remains gridlocked on the issue.

    Democratic Senator Chris Murphy represents the state of Connecticut, where the deadliest elementary school shooting in American history happened in 2012.

    And Senator Murphy joins us now from Capitol Hill.

    Senator, thank you for being here.

    You stood on the Senate floor yesterday. And you said to your fellow senators — and I'm just quoting — "What are we doing?" You said: "Why are we spending all this time running for the Senate if your answer is, as the slaughter increases, we do nothing?"

    Have you heard any answers from your fellow senators?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.:

    This is a moment that compels us to action.

    I mean, my question was sincere. I don't understand why you spend all this time trying to be a member of the world's greatest deliberative body if you're just going to sit back and let the slaughter continue without answer.

    I have been engaged all day today in conversations with Republicans and Democrats trying to see if we can find some common ground. I understand Republicans aren't going to support everything that I support. We probably can't get a universal background check bill. We probably can't get the votes for a ban on assault weapons.

    But maybe we can do some smaller things to at least show parents and kids in this country that we take seriously the fear, the anxiousness that they labor under every single day in their classrooms and at home.

    Senator Schumer has said that he will give us about a week to 10 days to try to work out that compromise. But then he's going to bring votes before the Senate, either a compromise that we work and put before the body or something very much like what has passed the House of Representatives, expanded background checks in this nation.

    I think he's right. Let's have some space for debate, for discussions and negotiations. But, ultimately, we need to have a debate and take some votes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So what kinds of smaller things do you think are possible? And just remind us again, why can't bigger things get done?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Well, we have 50 votes in the Senate for expanded background checks.

    That's the clearest intervention that would reduce the pace of gun murder in this country. Remember, we pay attention when these mass shootings happen, and they are cataclysmic, but, every single day, more people are dying from guns than at any time in the last several decades.

    We have had a huge surge in gun violence in our cities, in our rural areas in the last several years. So, we have the majority of senator who support things like universal background checks. We just don't have 60 senators, which is what is required under the rule.

    So we need to find 10 Republicans that will support any of these interventions. So what are we talking about? We're talking about some minor expansions of background checks, getting more sales through the background check system. We're talking about red flag laws. These are the laws that allow you to take weapons away from people who are showing signs of breaks with reality or are showing signs of future violence.

    Those are the kinds of things that we might be able to find 60 votes on. But we will see. We're going to work at it in the next coming — in the next several days.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're saying, at this point, you don't even know that you could get the votes for one of these, as you describe them, smaller things?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    I don't.

    I mean, the problem is that the gun industry has had such a grip on the Republican Party here in Congress, that it's hard to break. But, sometimes, when these particularly cataclysmic shootings happen, enough Republicans are willing to enter into discussions that we can get a breakthrough.

    I don't know if this is one of those moments, but I'm going to try really hard in the next coming days to find that compromise.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are you sensing any movement on the part of your Republican colleagues?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    I don't know yet.

    I mean, I have been in conversations all today. I don't know that I have seen any of my Republican colleagues have an epiphany. But there's a willingness to sit down and talk. And that's my job, right?

    I went to the floor last night and told my colleagues that they weren't doing their job if they weren't prepared to be engaged in conversation about fixing this problem. So, I'm going to meet them where they are, sit down and talk about some changes we can make to background checks laws, to red flag laws.

    But if we can't come up with a compromise, then we just have to take some votes and show the American people where their senators stand.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Are you putting any energy, Senator, into trying to change the filibuster rule? Or is it just — I mean, we know there's been opposition from Senator Manchin in West Virginia, Senator Sinema of Arizona.

    Any sense of movement on their part?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    No, I don't have any sense that that is going to change.

    I think, right now, we have to deal with the rules as they exist. That requires us to get 60 votes, no. But you can see why people are kind of giving up on democracy across the country. The American people did everything we asked of them. They elected to Congress a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and a president who all supports universal background checks, which would undoubtedly dramatically stem the number of murders in this country.

    And, even having gone through that exercise of electing majorities in the House, Senate, a president who believes in changing the gun laws, they still can't get it done because of this requirement in the Senate of a supermajority.

    And so you can see the American public has a right to be very frustrated with Washington right now, when they do their job, but the rules prevent us from enacting their will.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, what does it say about the Senate, about the American system of government that even a shooting as unspeakable as this one, another Sandy Hook, if you will, what happened in your home state 10 years ago, is not changing any minds?

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Well, I haven't conceded that yet.

    So, we are 24 hours since this horrific incident. And I am going to meet with some Republicans and Democrats in the Capitol in about 10 minutes to begin those discussions. And so I'm not going to concede that this is not a moment where something different can happen.

    As a parent of two school-age kids, I know what parents and kids are going through right now. And as terrifying as it is to deal with the prospect of your child being shot at when they go to school, just as terrifying is the idea that the adults in charge of your country are going to do nothing about that.

    And my belief is that we could potentially find some common ground. So I'm not giving up. I'm not willing to concede that this moment isn't different.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thank you very much.

  • Sen. Chris Murphy:

    Thank you.

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