Senate Democrats are filibustering right now for gun control reform

Senator Chris Murphy said he was "prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can."
June 15, 2016, 8:42pm
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Senate Democrats are calling attention to gun violence and trying to force the passage of stricter gun control laws with the launch of a filibuster on Wednesday, in response to the Orlando mass shooting that killed 49 people over the weekend.

Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut announced the action on Twitter just before he took the Senate podium midday Wednesday.

"I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can," Murphy tweeted. "I've had #enough."

Democrats are specifically pushing for a vote on two amendments on a spending bill currently under debate. The proposed measures would require universal background checks and prevent people on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns altogether.

Speaking on the senate floor, Murphy said lawmakers should "not proceed with debate on amendments to this bill until we have figured out a way to come together on, at the very least, two simple ideas."

Murphy's attempt to pressure Republicans with his non-stop soliloquy comes three days after a gunman shot and killed 49 people in Orlando with an assault rifle. The attacker had previously been under investigation by the FBI for links to terrorism but was still able to obtain the firearm legally.

Legislation barring those who are being investigated for terrorism from buying guns was introduced last year by Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein but failed to go anywhere due to lack of support from Republicans. Republican Senator John Cornyn introduced a compromise measure that would leave it up to a judge to decide if an individual on the terrorist watch list would be able to purchase a gun, but so far the two parties have yet to come together on a unified approach.

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Cornyn brushed off the Democrats' attempts to force stricter gun control laws.

"This is a lot more nuanced than some people appreciate," Cornyn told Politico "We're trying."

Murphy was quickly joined by other Democrats, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who planned to continue speaking well into Wednesday evening.

Murphy became one of Capitol Hill's most vocal proponents for gun control after 20 elementary school children and six adults were gunned down in the Newtown mass shooting in 2012. Murphy represented the district that included Newtown when he was in the House of Representatives.

"I can't tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the family of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later, we have done nothing, nothing at all to reduce the likelihood that that will happen again to another family," Murphy said during his speech Wednesday.

The filibuster attempt may have been a surprise but the timing was hardly a coincidence. It comes on the same day that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump met with the National Rifle Association to discuss the issue of gun sales to terrorist suspects. Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA in May, expressed his support for such a law in the past — yet another position that sets him apart from many of his fellow Republicans.

The NRA said in a statement that they support Cornyn's legislation and had no plans on capitulating to Trump.

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"We are happy to meet with Donald Trump," the NRA's director of legislative action, Chris Cox, said in a statement Wednesday. "The NRA's position on this issue has not changed."

"The NRA believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period," the statement continued. "Anyone on a terror watchlist who tries to buy a gun should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and the sale delayed while the investigation is ongoing."

Senate Democrats were not the only ones loudly protesting Republicans' refusal to pass gun control legislation this week. During a legislative session in the House of Representatives on Monday, Speaker Paul Ryan called for a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting, which House Democrats responded to with angry shouts of criticism. Some Democrats walked out of the chamber altogether to protest Ryan's refusal to hear legislation aimed at restricting the sale and purchase of firearms.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker