Taking President Obama’s cue, Democratic lawmakers have seized on Thursday’s deadly shooting at an Oregon’s Umpqua Community College to bring gun control to the forefront of the national conversation.
Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy announced new legislation Friday morning in Hartford, Connecticut that would bar gun sales until background checks are complete. Currently, if a background check isn’t completed within 72 hours, then a gun can be sold without the check. In what Blumenthal called a “tragic and sad coincidence,” the press conference had been scheduled weeks before Thursday’s shooting in Oregon occurred.
Blumenthal compared mass shootings to a public health crisis in the country, and called his bill a “fairly modest” step towards addressing the epidemic. “These commonsense measures closing loopholes can make a difference as a matter of life and death,” he said, noting that 15,729 ineligible people have been able to purchase guns under the current rules once their waiting periods expired.
Murphy, who was noticeably incensed as he spoke, took his language a step further. “Congress has become an accomplice in these murders,” he said. “We are quietly endorsing this mass slaughter by refusing to act.”
He did not stop there. “I don’t care how many members of Congress send out tweets saying they’re sorry,” he said. “You aren’t sorry, you aren’t truly sympathetic if you’re not willing to act.”
The Connecticut Senators were far from the only Democratic lawmakers who wrapped a call for gun control into their condolences after Thursday’s attack.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin put out a statement calling for Congress to “act swiftly on requiring universal background checks for firearms buyers. We must also take steps to strengthen our mental health system and reduce the glorification of violence in our culture. We absolutely should move to ban assault weapons and prohibit high-capacity ammunition clips. The inability to take these small steps is perhaps of one of the greatest failings of Congress.”
Other lawmakers were more general in their statements of support for gun control.
California Senator Barbara Boxer said, “We cannot close our eyes to this epidemic of gun violence that is erupting in our schools, our workplaces, our movie theaters, our military bases and in our communities. How many more mass shootings must we endure before we take sensible action to address gun violence in this country?”
While Nevada Senator Harry Reid said simply: “Americans want us to act. We cannot dodge this conversation forever.”
The issue also rose in the race for the Democratic nomination for President.
Vermont Senator and 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders said, “We need a comprehensive approach. We need sensible gun-control legislation which prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them. We must greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities so individuals and families can get the psychological help they need when they need it. We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.”
In an interview with Boston ABC affiliate WCVB shortly after she had heard of the shooting, former Secretary of State and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton said, “I’m sick about it, and I feel an absolute urgency for this country to start being sensible about keeping guns away from people who should not have them. I’m going to be pushing this issue. Universal background checks, a long enough waiting period so that people can’t sneak in under the deadline because the full investigation wasn’t completed.”
Former Maryland Governor and 2016 contender Martin O’Malley tweeted:
There isn’t any imminent path for gun control legislation to be voted on in Congress. Republican leaders have made clear in the recent past they have no interest in pursuing new legislation. Thursday’s shooting, which claimed ten lives, marked the fifteenth time Barack Obama has addressed a mass shooting during his presidency.