State senators express outrage, call for action after latest school shooting
WASHINGTON — Ever sensitive to the continuing memories of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass-shooting, Connecticut’s senators took to the Senate floor Wednesday to alternate between outrage and sympathy over the deaths of 17 or more in gunfire at a Florida high school.
In a familiar refrain, Sen. Chris Murphy pointed to the high incidence of gun violence in America as the common thread in the recent streak of school shootings — 19 so far this year.
“This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America,” said Murphy, his voice pausing between sentences. “This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting. It only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction.”
Congress, he said, is “responsible for a level of mass atrocities that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
Murphy in 2016 led the Democratic effort to force votes on gun-violence-prevention issues such as universal background checks for all purchases — an effort to close the so-called gun show loophole.
Murphy won the votes after his near-15-hour marathon of speaking on the Senate floor. But the GOP-controlled Senate voted down expanded background checks, as well as a measure that would have denied guns to anyone whose name appears on the government’s terrorist watch list.
“As a parent it scares me to death that this body doesn’t take seriously the safety of my children,” Murphy said, his emotions rising. “And it seems like a lot of parents in South Florida are going to be asking that same question later today.”
In 2012, a school shooting in Newtown took the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members. The shooter, Adam Lanza, turned his weapon on himself and ended his life.
The incident seared the emotions of the community and the state, marking Connecticut as a ground zero of sorts for the intertwining issues of preventing gun violence and how best to keep guns out of the hands of those unqualified under the law to have them.
Since Newtown, Democrats on Capitol Hill have looked to Connecticut’s all-Democrat delegation for leadership on the gun issue, an uphill battle in a Congress under control of Republicans, and the National Rifle Association still a potent force backing them.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who assisted Murphy in the 2016 filibuster, cited Newtown in his remarks.
Televised images of police converging on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and students running from the building with their hands up “(bring) back memories that are searing and harrowing,” Blumenthal said. “Once again, we feel that churning in our stomach, that sense of gut punch, and a wrenching of hearts that reminds us of how we felt that day of violence in Newtown.”
Gun violence, Blumenthal said, “respects no boundaries. It spares no communities. It victimizes all of us wherever it happens and whenever, including the gun violence that kills people every day individually, often unpublicized and invisible.”
At the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump had spoken by phone with Gov. Rick Scott and pledged whatever federal assistance is needed.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, herself a Florida native, also spoke to Scott as well as state and local officials.
The White House canceled its daily briefing of reporters because of the shooting.
“We continue to keep the victims, and their friends and family, in our thoughts and prayers,” Sanders said in a statement.