Chris Murphy and the CT Gun Safety Movement Celebrate a Rare Victory

Chris Murphy returned home Friday in crinkled gray jeans and a blue shirt, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, eyes cloudy. He didn’t wait in Washington for the final passage of the first major US gun safety law in three decades, a law he brokered and steered through Thursday night in the Senate.

“We worked last night after the bill passed to try to land it cleanly in the House today. Obviously, the text of the bill came out late. So we had a lot of work last night discussing the bill with members of the House,” Murphy said. “But yeah, I just wanted to be back here today to celebrate with the folks in Connecticut who made this all possible.”

Outside a community boathouse on the Connecticut River in Hartford, a short and convenient trip on I-91 from Bradley International Airport, these “people” waited a while with the junior senator of the Connecticut. His time in the Senate was marked by legislative inaction on guns, accompanied by the slaughter of children in Connecticut and Texas.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal, one of 10 Democrats on the task force led by Murphy, was already fielding questions from reporters when Murphy arrived. Murphy didn’t seem to be in a hurry, stopping for hugs and handshakes, leaning in for selfies.

Chris Murphy poses for a selfie with a gun control advocate on Friday. Marc Pazniokas

There would be questions about what’s next, about whether the emboldened conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court had already preemptively shown signs of limiting what Congress can do on guns, even when the equally divided Senate votes 65-33 on a Thursday night to adopt a bipartisan weapon. security measure, followed by last passed Friday on a 234-193 vote in the House.

“I know Washington and the political pundits constantly want to look ahead,” Murphy said. “I’m focusing on what we’ve done and how it’s going to save thousands of lives. Of course, that’s not enough. But no social movement gets everything it wants in its first piece of legislation. I’m glad people are eager to take the next step.

But Murphy wasn’t among them, not on the first Friday of summer.

On a day when much of America and its short news cycles had already moved on, assessing how the same conservative majority court had just upended half a century of established abortion law, Murphy wanted to stay focused on the people who he had met in almost a decade. trying and, until this week, failing to solve the almost uniquely American problem of mass shootings.

They waited by the river, decked out in the red, green and orange T-shirts of groups born or grown since Sandy Hook – Newtown Action Alliance in green, Moms Demand Action in red, Connecticut Against Gun Violence in orange. Councilors from Hartford Communities That Care wore blue polo shirts, embroidered with their logo, HCTC, while those from Compass Youth were in orange.

There was a slim white girl in green named Nicole Melchionno. She’s 17 and speaks in public now, though for a long, long time she clung to her parents. On December 14, 2012, she was a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one of the second graders who went home that day to crazy and grateful parents.

Twenty of his classmates didn’t. Murphy, then a senator-elect who had represented Sandy Hook in the U.S. House for six years, saw their parents learn the news at a fire station down the hill from the school, a scene he didn’t described only indirectly in his book on violence in America.

Since that day, Murphy’s burning issue has been gun violence, gun safety, gun control. Time and time again he let them down. He believes time and history were on their side, but movements need progress, the occasional victory, to fuel them. They and Murphy had been conditioned to fail.

“The last two years of this movement have been tough,” Murphy said. “When a move comes to seven or eight, without a big win domestically, sometimes it becomes difficult to stay. And so I think that move was getting to the point where we had to show success.”

Carl Hardrick, who worked the streets of Hartford for decades to ease tensions between gangs and other beef, came out to celebrate. He is 80 years old and recently lost a grandson, a shot young man. His friend, Andrew Woods of Hartford Communities That Care, a program that works through St. Francis Hospital with gun victims, was also there.

Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal with Sandy Hook survivor Nicole Melchionno. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Henry Brown was there too, hard to miss. He is tall and black and very noisy. He’s a Hartford street preacher and anti-violence campaigner, and he preached a tough sermon to Murphy soon after Sandy Hook. It was about the failure of a young, white, newly elected senator to pay attention to the street shootings.

There is an unflinching account of Brown’s public rebuke to Murphy in the book he published in 2020, “The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Unfolding American Tragedy.”

Brown, dressed in shorts and sweating profusely in the midday sun, was all smiles on Friday. The bipartisan bill, now on its way to a signature promised by President Biden. Brown has no illusions about the new law ending violence, not at the start of a hot summer.

But it offers hope, as well as money for community behavioral health programs and to implement red flag laws that allow authorities to seize firearms from people deemed a threat to them. themselves or for others. It requires more extensive background checks for gun buyers under 21, increases penalties for gun smuggling and closes the ‘boyfriend loophole’ by denying guns to unmarried partners in domestic violence cases, not just to spouses.

“You know, we’ve been looking for hope for a long time,” Brown said. “And now it’s a beacon of hope for people in our community, black and brown. So on that note, I just want to thank you, because 10 years ago I couldn’t see there was hope. Five years ago, I did not see that there was hope. Waking up today, and knowing that hope is on the horizon, man, I’ve been celebrating all morning. And if I was a drinker, I would have had a stiff drink this morning.

There were laughs on Friday.

And Thursday night in Washington, there was applause.

“In the galleries last night were families who endured this indescribable grief,” Blumenthal said. “But unlike almost 10 years ago, they weren’t shouting, ‘Shame!’ after our failure. Last night, they were having a party.

Murphy gave a quick nod to what the bill lacked, specifically universal background checks to purchase firearms and restrictions on high-capacity magazines and military-style rifles used at Sandy Hook. and most recently in Uvalde, Texas.

“Does this bill include everything that Dick Blumenthal and I support and the people in this room support?” Murphy said. “No. But this bill saves lives. And this bill will prove to Republicans that there is no political price to pay for voting gun safety. There is just political gain. .

Some of the Republicans who voted for the bill are not seeking re-election, but Murphy’s negotiating partner was Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican with ambitions to become Senate Majority Leader. And the current leader of the GOP in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, supported the passage.

“Mitch McConnell didn’t hesitate yesterday to talk about the fact that he got on board with this bill, in part because he thought it was very good policy,” Murphy said. “And Mitch McConnell didn’t think 10 years ago, Mitch McConnell 10 years ago, he was very confident, loudly opposing changes in gun laws because he thought it was good policy for his party. Things have changed.”

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