Just hours after a horrifying school shooting in Michigan, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he got halfway home from the U.S. Capitol before turning around to give an impassioned late-night speech from the Senate floor about the need for gun control measures that have languished for years in the bitterly divided chamber.
A video of his remarks went viral on Twitter this week, gaining more than 1.5 million views in the first 24 hours after going live.
"Driving home tonight, I thought about Republicans' floor speeches today on the "sanctity of life" and how this concern for "life" apparently doesn't extend to the kids who were shot today in a school in Michigan," Murphy wrote Tuesday. "So I turned the car around, and went to the Senate floor."
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Looking to capitalize on this groundswell of apparent support, Murphy attempted to use his powerful position on the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to advance a House-passed bill called the "Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021" that would require a number of new restrictions on gun purchases:
- Guns being transferred between private parties would require a licensed dealer or manufacturer to carry out a background check
- The bill would also expand a 10-day review both firearm purchases and transfers
In comments to the committee, he acknowledged that the measure might not have prevented the shooting in Michigan, but that it would likely reduce gun violence overall.
"I want to tell you why I'm making this request. I understand the low likelihood of success, but I hope many of my colleagues took a minute to watch the cellphone video from the school shooting in Michigan," Murphy said, referring to widely-shared surveillance video that showed 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shooting at students and staff at Oxford high school in suburban Detroit.
"All of those kids who fled that violence, all of those kids who now don't think of school as a safe place, they are going through trauma and will go through trauma that will take a lifetime to address."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, however, was having none of it. According to a report in the Guardian, because Murphy had requested the Judiciary Committee forward the bill with unanimous consent, the 88-year-old was able to unilaterally block the measure in favor of promoting a Republican-favored alternative called the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2021, which wouldn't institute any new requirements but does seek to increase the accuracy with which government agencies report existing criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Following his favored bill's demise, Murphy blasted Grassley's manuever, saying that the GOP cares "more about the health of the gun industry and their profits than they do about the health of our kids."