WASHINGTON — Sunday marks the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre that killed twenty children and six teachers on December 14, 2012. And though Congress hasn’t passed any gun reform laws in its wake, there’s one senator who’s made it his mission to persistently push for changes, even when no one’s listening.
For the past two years, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat, has been traveling to the Senate floor, month after month, to detail the growing numbers of people killed by gun violence. He calls these speeches, “Voices of Victims.”
Asked what drives him to continually make his plea, he said it’s to keep “the drum beat up on the Senate floor.”
To him, telling victim’s stories, identifying who they were, what they enjoyed, where they lived, personalizes the issue and hopefully makes it harder for his colleagues and state lawmakers to ignore.
“There’s no more personal issue than gun violence; every one of these stories is a life lost,” he said. “I’m hoping that over the long term, as I tell these stories, that it will help to open people’s eyes.”
“It is beyond comprehension that Congress is watching this epidemic of school shootings and chooses to do nothing,” Murphy added.
Murphy’s uphill battle for comprehensive gun control reform, however, is met with significant challenges. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook, and the many that followed, there’s been no legislation on the issue. After a failed vote on a bill that would have broadened background checks for gun purchasers in April 2013, there’s been no sign of any additional legislation.
And with Republicans maintaining the House and winning the Senate as a result of the midterm election, Murphy’s push for gun control legislation and background checks hasn’t gotten any easier. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a staunch supporter of the National Rifle Association and 90 percent of NRA-backed candidates won their seats during midterm elections.
“[The NRA] is absolutely pulling one over on their members,” Murphy said. “The NRA was for background checks a decade ago, and they changed their position, despite the fact that their members support background checks.”
A new Pew survey released earlier this week indicates additional challenges for gun control advocates. According to the survey, the number of people supporting gun rights now offsets those who support gun control with 52 percent of Americans siding with gun rights, and 46 percent siding with gun control.
On Wednesday, Murphy acknowledged the challenges for achieving gun control legislation with the Republican-led Congress during a Senate floor speech, but hinted he might be finding a new way to challenge the issue.
“I get it that we’re not going to get a background checks bill passed through the Senate in the next two years, but why not work on mental health funding?” he asked.
Either way, Murphy is not giving up. He acknowledged that fighting for stricter gun laws is a lifelong campaign for the families affected by Sandy Hook.
“It gives me hope that if I stick with this, families will stick with this alongside me,” he said.