Murphy was in the House in 2012 when a shooting took place in his neighborhood at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 20 children aged 6 and 7 and six adults were killed. Now, a decade later, another gunman had entered an elementary school and killed 14 young children and a teacher in Uvalde, Texas.
“What do we do?” Murphy said, his voice rising. “Why are we here if not to try to get fewer schools and fewer communities to go through what Sandy Hook went through, what Uvalde goes through. … I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on all fours and beg my colleagues: find a way forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.
The aftermath of Sandy Hook was the closest Congress in the past decade to passing meaningful changes to national gun laws, but when a modest bill to strengthen background checks was passed in the Senate, only four Republicans voted for. while four Democrats, none of whom are yet in office, voted against. Since then, there has been nothing but frustration and anger over mass shootings at places of worship, stores, at a concert, at a nightclub, at a yoga studio and in schools, causing many to fear that anywhere in the United States could be next.
House Minority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) summed up the shock and anger Democrats felt toward their fellow Republicans, noting that legislation passed in the House last year was languishing in the Senate.
“How many times will Senate Republicans still express their outrage at horrific shootings like today’s in Uvalde, Texas, and then block meaningful, bipartisan background check legislation, backed by nine Americans on ten and the most responsible gun owners?” he said in a statement. “How many more times?”
House Democrats passed two bills in March 2021 to strengthen national gun laws by closing what they see as loopholes and expanding background checks on gun buyers. If passed, a bill would have tightened background check rules to no longer allow a gun sale if a check is not completed after three days.
The “Charleston Loophole” legislation, named after the 2015 massacre in South Carolina, would extend the review period to 20 days. A separate bill would have required background checks to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows buyers to waive a review if they purchase a gun during a gun show or online.
Both bills passed overwhelmingly with the support of Democrats, but were never taken up in a 50-50 Senate, where 10 Republicans would be needed to send the legislation to the president’s desk.
Twitter users resurrected a tweet from Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.), who represents Uvalde, in which the congressman bragged about voting against both bills, noting in the tweet that he remained “a proud supporter of the Second Amendment and will do everything I can to oppose the takeover of arms by the far left.
Many lawmakers from both parties immediately shared statements of horror and sadness over the shooting.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said on Twitter that he was “completely ill and heartbroken,” that he was “rising in prayer” for the community, and that there had been “too many of these shootings. Cruz, along with former President Donald Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right), are scheduled to speak Friday at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in Houston, about 275 miles from Uvalde.
Furious critics of Cruz responded angrily to him, including Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), who wrote“Just to be clear, fuck you @tedcruz you fucking baby killer.”
Many lawmakers noted that the country was still reeling from an attack on a black community in Buffalo a week ago that killed 10 people in a supermarket. After this seemingly racially motivated attack, Democrats privately acknowledged that changes to gun laws would only stall in the Senate. Instead, they have set their sights on accelerating a bill that would expand the ability of federal agencies to track and analyze any domestic terrorism activity, including white supremacist groups.
After making changes to appease liberals who have raised concerns, the House passed the legislation last Wednesday with overwhelming Democratic support. The bill will be before the Senate on Thursday, but is unlikely to win the support of the 10 Republicans needed to top a filibuster.
“I am sick and angry. I am furious that ANOTHER senseless school shooting has left at least 15 families without loved ones – including 14 precious, innocent children and a dedicated educator – just days after 10 people were murdered in Buffalo,” the rep tweeted. CA Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). “To my colleagues across the way: We’ve had enough of your simple thoughts and prayers. We need action NOW.