WASHINGTON — After imploring “Congress to get off its ass and do something” after the Las Vegas mass shooting, one of the Senate’s top gun-control advocates is planning on unveiling new legislation to tighten background checks.
Stephen Paddock, whose arsenal included 42 guns packed into 10 suitcases in the Mandalay Bay hotel suite he used as a point of attack, did not have a criminal record and passed background checks. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) acknowledged there’s no guarantee stricter laws would have stopped Paddock from acquiring his weapons, but “we can’t get caught in the trap of only advocating legislation that addressed yesterday’s shooting.”
“The fact is, 80 other people died from guns yesterday and stronger background checks laws should’ve saved many of them,” the senator told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.
Murphy tweeted Monday: “To my colleagues: your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends unless we do something to stop it…. These are weapons intentionally designed to kill as many people as efficiently as possible. Why is anyone shocked this keeps happening?”
On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) declared he was “furious” because “nothing has changed since Newtown,” when Sandy Hook Elementary in his home state was attacked in 2013.
“I am under no illusions. Nobody needs to tell me where the votes are at this moment. We need to be realistic about what the agenda is in our going forward. We need to be very clear-eyed and realistic, but we also need to recognize that we can win this fight,” Blumenthal said. “Between the time that Ronald Reagan had almost been assassinated and the day that the Brady bill had passed, it had been almost 10 years. We need to be in this fight as a marathon, not as a sprint, and that is the determination and resolve that must be brought to this effort.”
The senator slammed the Hearing Protection Act, House legislation that would nix a fee on gun silencers. “This legislation would make it terrifyingly easy to buy a gun silencer. Hunters and recreational shooters deserve to have silencers but only if they comply with those regulations,” Blumenthal said. “This measure would pose an unacceptable risk to public safety and make it more difficult for law enforcement, especially in urban areas, to identify gunshots, locate shooters, and protect civilians.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) advocated expanding background checks to gun shows and the internet, noting in a floor speech that “states that require background checks on private handgun sales see fewer women killed by their partners and fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns.”
“Today in the United States, military-style assault weapons may be sold legally to civilians. Assault weapons are not needed for either hunting or self-defense,” she added. “They are weapons of war designed to kill large numbers of people in close quarters. This is not sustainable — and the public agrees.”
In a statement Monday, Murphy said it was “positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic.”
“There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference,” he said.