Sen. Chris Murphy on Sunday said a bipartisan group of senators is “closer than ever before” to coming up with a gun-reform package, but acknowledged it will not include an assault weapons ban or comprehensive background checks.
The Connecticut Democrat, who has been involved in the negotiations with his colleagues across the aisle, said he hasn’t seen gun talks as “serious” as those underway now since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School 10 years ago.
He said Democrats and Republicans have agreed to take some “commonsense steps” while still upholding Americans’ Second Amendment rights — but he warned, “we’re not going to do everything I want.”
“We’re not going to put a piece of legislation on the table that’s going to ban assault weapons, or we’re not going to pass comprehensive background checks,” the senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“But, right now, people in this country want us to make progress. They just don’t want the status quo to continue for another 30 years.”
Still, Murphy said he is “sober-minded about our chances” that comes from being involved in such discussions over the years.
“We’re talking about a meaningful change in our gun laws, a major investment in mental health, perhaps some money for school security, that would make a difference,” Murphy said.
The measures will likely include investments in mental health, funds to increase school security and a change in red flag laws, but he said the talks are continuing and the senators are “trying to figure out what can get 60 to 70 votes in the Senate.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his counterpart Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell authorized the bipartisan talks following the mass shootings at a Buffalo grocery store that killed 10 people and the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where 21 people — including 19 students — died.
In both shootings, the gunmen used AR-15-style military assault weapons.
Murphy has met with GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Others involved in the discussions include Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Toomey, who worked with Manchin on legislation to expand background checks 10 years ago but which stalled in the Senate, said he hopes the proposal makes it into this package.
“I don’t know that we’ll get exactly what Senator Manchin and I developed some years ago, it’d probably be something different than that. And that’s fine,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
He said there are a “number of mechanisms” that could be used to expand the checks and that the proposal “makes sense.”
“We all agree that violent criminals and deranged dangerously mentally ill people shouldn’t have firearms. So we need a mechanism to increase the likelihood that will identify such a person and prevent them from buying a gun legally anyway … and so that’s the idea behind expanding background checks,” Toomey said.
President Biden, in a rare evening address to the nation from the White House last week, said the Second Amendment “is not absolute.”
“We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21,” Biden said, adding that he backs strengthening background checks and enacting red flag laws.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded in a 2017 shooting, said lawmakers should be “focusing on the root cause of the problems” and not attacking the Second Amendment.
“You had members, Democrats, cursing out the Second Amendment. You had members saying, well, if we can’t get this, we’re going to blow up the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court to get around the Second Amendment,” the Louisiana Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“The Second Amendment is not some guideline, it’s part of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and it’s there for a reason, by the way. Every day in America people use guns to defend themselves,” he said.