WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Democratic senator from Connecticut launched a filibuster and demanded a vote on gun control measures, and vowed not to move until a vote came around.
The move comes three days after 49 people were killed in a mass shooting in Orlando.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said he would remain on the Senate floor “until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together,” as he also evoked the Newtown school shooting in his state in 2012. Late Wednesday night, he remained on the Senate floor after starting speaking at 11:21 a.m., WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
His plea came as presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet with the National Rifle Association about the terror watch list and gun purchases.
“For those of us that represent Connecticut, the failure of this body to do anything, anything at all in the face of that continued slaughter isn’t just painful to us, it’s unconscionable,” Murphy said.
Twenty children and six educators died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012. Murphy said he cannot look into the eyes of those children’s relatives and tell them that Congress has done nothing since.
“I am standing up to say we have had enough,” Murphy said. “We will not tolerate inaction any longer.”
It’s been nearly a decade since Congress made any significant changes to federal gun laws. In April 2007, a gunman at Virginia Tech was able to purchase his weapons because his mental health history was not in the instant background check database. Thirty-two people died in the shooting.
The law increased the quantity and quality of records entered into the system, but the amount of money provided to help states improve their contributions has lagged well below what was originally envisioned.
Murphy is seeking a vote on legislation from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists. Feinstein offered the amendment in December, a day after an extremist couple killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, but the Republican-run Senate rejected the proposal on a near party-line vote. He also wants a vote to expand background checks.
The Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, was added to a government watch list of individuals known or suspected of being involved in terrorist activities in 2013, when he was investigated for inflammatory statements to co-workers. But he was pulled from that database when that investigation was closed 10 months later.
Trump said he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch lists or no fly lists from buying guns. That wouldn’t have blocked Mateen from buying a gun, however, since he’d been pulled from the watch list.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday that he and Feinstein were talking about a potential compromise between her bill and a version he has offered that would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Prosecutors would have to persuade a judge to block the transaction permanently, a bar Democrats and gun control activists say is too high.
Murphy’s plea came as presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet with the National Rifle Association about the terror watch list and gun purchases.
In a statement, the NRA said it was happy to meet with Trump and said in a statement: “The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period. Anyone who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing.”
“If Donald Trump gets involved that could certainly give enough Republicans cover to, at least, allow for a vote and Donald Trump getting involved in this should should be very, very important,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said.
Cornyn and other Republicans argue that Feinstein’s bill denies due process to people who may be on the terror list erroneously and are trying to exercise their constitutional right to gun ownership. Cornyn did not sound overly hopeful of reaching compromise with Feinstein.
“We’re trying, we’re trying,” he said. “But we’re not going to presume somebody’s guilty and deny them due process of law, we’re going to require the government to show some evidence and to provide for a constitutional process, that’s where we differ.”
He said Murphy’s filibuster is “just filling dead air” while senators negotiate.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., believes something might be able to get done.
“I talked to Dianne Feinstein today. I think there is a way to protect the Second Amendment rights of people who have been wrongfully accused of being a terrorist, and at the same time, make sure that people who don’t want to have guns, that they don’t get them – at least through the legal process,” Graham said.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid also sounded cynical.
“If they have something that’s decent we’ll work with them,” he said, but added that “this is not the end” of the issue for Democrats.
CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported that King said it’s a no-brainer to not allow those on terror watch lists from buying guns.
“It makes absolute common sense,” King said. “If you’re on the terrorist watch list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. If you believe you’re on the list improperly; you don’t belong on the list, you have a procedure to follow where you get taken off the list.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, says it is also working on a compromise with Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick Toomey, a Republican in a tough re-election race this year who has sought compromise in the past on gun control measures. Toomey said in a brief speech on the Senate floor that he thinks that he thinks the two sides should come together.
Democrats used the hashtag “(hash)enough” on Twitter to give updates on the debate. Murphy began speaking at 11:21 a.m., and joining him on the Senate floor were Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and other Democratic senators. Some Democratic House members even crossed the Capitol to watch the debate from the back of the chamber.
A day after the shooting in Orlando, Democratic lawmakers erupted on the House floor with loud criticism of House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders for leaving the nation’s gun laws untouched. Some protested by leaving the House floor during a moment of silence honoring the victims.
Democrats yelled “Where’s the bill?” and “No leadership!” Monday evening after Ryan held a moment of silence for 49 people killed in the shooting.
Last December, Senate Republicans joined the National Rifle Association in opposing legislation that would have let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists.
Despite the recent shootings, the prospects for legislation seem unlikely.
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