Sen. Murphy: Universal Background Checks First: Then 'You Can Move On to Other Interventions'

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2021 | 5:04am EDT
(Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)

( - "I think we have a chance" of passing a bill requiring universal background checks, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on Sunday.

He told NBC's "Meet the Press" he's working on getting the necessary 60 votes, which means persuading ten Republicans to vote for such a bill. But Murphy indicated that Democrats will not stop with expanded background checks.

I think right now our best chance to get something passed is universal background checks. And I think that the theory of the case is that once we convince Republicans that the sky doesn't fall for you politically when you support a reasonable expansion of something like background checks, you can move on to other interventions.

But yes, we should be having a broader conversation right now because, you know, in Connecticut, it's not just universal background checks that protects our citizens. We require you to get a permit before you buy a pistol, something that had it been in effect in these states might have prevented one of the shooters from getting a gun.

We include all assaults, not just felony assaults, on the prohibited list of purchasers for firearms. That likely would have stopped the shooter in Colorado from being able to get a weapon. So, it's not just background checks. There's a whole host of other interventions that lead to states like Connecticut having much lower rates of gun crime than other states.

Murphy said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has instructed him to find "willing Republicans" who would support a bill requiring background checks on private gun sales between individuals in addition to the already required background checks on commercial transactions.

"Don't count us out," Murphy said. "I think the politics have shifted dramatically since 2013, even since 2016, the last time that we had a vote on background checks.

"Remember, 2019, after El Paso and Dayton, we came very close to passing a background checks expansion proposal that President Trump actually drafted and put before the Congress. It was the Ukraine scandal that got in the way, but I've gotten a lot of calls from Republicans in the Senate who don't want to fight this fight any longer because the NRA's authority is fading, the anti-gun violence movement's impact is increasing. I think we have a chance."

Jason Ouimet, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said H.R. 8 "cannot be enforced without a federal gun registry, will not prevent crime, and will turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals for simply loaning a firearm to friends or family members.  If Congress is serious about the safety of law-abiding citizens, it should have passed concealed carry reciprocity so that Americans can safeguard themselves and their families across state lines and throughout our country during these dangerous times," Ouimet said in a statement.

Murphy conceded that H.R.8, one of two gun control bills passed by the House, will have to be "adjusted" to get ten Republican votes. "And I am already talking to Republicans who are not unwilling to sit down at the table."

Murphy said the most likely change would be to expand the list of exempted sales (no background check required) to include more family members.

Host Chuck Todd asked Murphy if gun control is the issue that could break the filibuster?

"I think that Republicans have to argue, as a means of defending the current rules, that the Senate can still work under the 60 vote requirement. I think Republicans may be looking for issues to prove that Democrats don't need to obliterate the filibuster," Murphy said.

"Here's their opportunity, an issue which has 90 percent support, which doesn't require them to shift their position, their current position to a herculean level. They can pass -- they can help us pass an expansion of background checks and prove to Democrats and the country that the Senate can work at a 60 vote threshold," Murphy said.

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