WASHINGTON – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) predicted that the Republican Party’s “genetic attachment” to the National Rifle Association “might actually cost them” seats in midterm elections.
“It’s not as if we are convincing people what the right thing to do is. We’ve won the argument – 90 percent of Americans think that we should have universal background checks. Today, 67 percent of Americans, two-thirds of Americans think that should regulate the purchase and sale of assault weapons,” Murphy said at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference on Tuesday.
Murphy said the Republican Party’s relationship with the NRA has become more important over time.
“The modern Republican Party, I would argue, has essentially lost any connection to real new ideas. Their only idea is less government and so if you are trying to out-anti-government another Republican in an electoral contest, then the NRA’s imprimatur, their endorsement, is the most important – because who is more anti-government than the organization that argues for the armed insurrection of the people against the government?” he said.
“So, over time, the badge that is provided to Republicans by the gun lobby has become more and more important,” he added. “So that is a problem I am probably not going to be able to solve, but I can solve the other one – and that question of intensity, which eventually will just change the composition of elected bodies, is probably on the verge of happening.”
Ryan Deitsch, a graduating senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was asked if the “intensity” around the Parkland students’ gun-control advocacy has died down since the Feb. 14 mass shooting.
“I definitely feel like the intensity in certain areas has died down,” he replied. “People don’t like to focus on an issue that is so looming that, I mean, the issue of gun violence can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time and if you let that sink into anybody’s mindset they won’t want to hold on to that for too long. I don’t blame anybody for that. I don’t want to think about that at any moment.”
Deitsch, who helped organize the March for Our Lives in Washington, revealed that he plans to conduct youth outreach for the upcoming midterm elections instead of attending college in the fall. Deitsch said his work would focus on “voter registration and voter education” with an emphasis on the gun-control issue.
Murphy said Republicans in Congress are aware that the gun-rights debate has changed since the Parkland shooting.
“Republicans know that everything is different right now and they know for the first time that they are fundamentally mispositioned on this issue, and they know that it might actually cost them for the first time ever in an election in 2018,” the senator said. “But they, as I mentioned before, have this sort of genetic attachment to this lobby and to this industry that they simply cannot break until they are forced to, and it will be an election.”
“It will the postmortem on that election in which they try to understand why they lost all these seats in these kinds of districts that will finally cause them to make that break. And my hope is that is this election, maybe it’s 2020, but it’s never going to be a cataclysmic mass shooting that ultimately breaks that party from the lobby,” Murphy predicted. “It is going to be a recognition that their political survival ultimately depends on them getting right and, like I said, we are further along than I thought we would be.”
Murphy labeled gun violence in America a “public health epidemic.”
“What happens is [students’] brains become bathed in these hormones called cortisol corrupting their circuitry; it’s no coincidence that all the underperforming schools are in the most dangers neighborhoods. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. We’re losing a generation of kids,” he said. “We are winning this fight day-by-day thanks to the Parkland students, thanks to the gun groups, thanks to CAP and so many others.”
Murphy argued that there is “no connection globally” between mental health and gun violence.
“We have no more mental health than any other country in the world. There are plenty of neighborhoods all around the world that are very, very poor and have non-existent rates of gun violence,” he said. “What is different in this country is that we have more guns than people. What is different in this country is that certain neighborhoods are awash in weapons and people have access to dangerous military-style weaponry that can kill 30 people in three minutes.”