Election 2020

Murphy on GOP: Gun Rights a ‘Litmus Test for How Much You Hate Government’

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) applauded Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for “proudly” pledging to take on the gun lobby and “calling out” opponents of gun control while campaigning in swing states such as Virginia and North Carolina.

Clinton is locked in a tight race with Trump in North Carolina, which former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) won in 2012. She is beating Trump by 3.5 points in Virginia, according to the latest Real Clear Politics polling average. President Obama won Virginia in 2012.

“We have to take on the gun lobby head-on and unmask it for what it has become — a spokesman for the gun makers, not for gun owners. Eighty percent of gun owners, even NRA members, support universal background checks. A higher percentage of gun owners than non-gun owners, some polls show, support closing the terror loophole. More political leaders need to call out the gun lobby’s double game and make their endorsement a little bit less meaningful,” Murphy said during a recent newsmakers’ event at the National Press Club.

“At the top of the ticket, Hillary Clinton’s doing just that. Don’t underestimate the importance of a major party presidential candidate asking for a mandate on the issue of guns and calling out the opponents of gun reform along the way. Some of the biggest applause lines for Clinton in her speeches are when she pledges to take on the gun lobby and she isn’t afraid to talk about this in unlikely places like North Carolina and Virginia,” he added.

Murphy said the Democrats now have “some new unlikely allies” within the Republican Party.

“During the debate that followed our filibuster, senators like Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, who both voted against background checks, by the way, in 2013, were very critical of those that argued for the status quo.’every right has boundaries on it’ — that’s what Lindsey Graham said earlier this year about the Second Amendment. I’m sure he would not have conceded that point two or four or six years ago,” he said.

The lawmaker urged Democrats to recognize that the “right’s slide away from defending the legitimacy of government isn’t going to magically abate, especially if a Democrat continues to occupy the White House.”

Murphy told the audience he has talked to many Republicans in Congress who want to be “more reasonable” on guns.

“But they’re stuck in a party in which their positions on guns is kind of a litmus test for how much you hate government. There have got to be other proxies to demonstrate ideological purity in this respect, and we should be working hard with sympathetic Republicans to find another path forward, not simply yelling at them for refusing to work with us,” he said.

National Press Club President Thomas Burr asked Murphy if he thinks the GOP would be more willing to accept new gun-control measures if Donald Trump loses “badly” to Hillary Clinton.

“Yes, in this respect — Hillary Clinton is running proudly on the issue of changing our nation’s gun laws and there were a lot of skeptics who said that she was only talking about guns as a means of differentiating herself from Bernie Sanders, that this was just an issue that she was using to get through the primary,” he said.

“Well, that has not proved to be the case. She has continued to make this a part of every speech she gives, including the one at the Democratic National Convention. So she’s the first candidate in modern times running very publicly on a promise to make changing gun laws a priority as president and so there’s no question that people will have to take a signal from her election,” he added.

Murphy said he plans to visit states throughout the election cycle that have gun-related referendums on the ballot.

“I’m going to be spending much of my time between now and the election traveling to states in which we have a clear difference between candidates for the Senate and the House on the issue of guns. I’ll be spending time in the states that have referendums that will expand background checks,” he said. “I point you to Nevada and Maine as two very important states, swing states, on this issue where we have referendums on the ballot. I don’t think that we’re going to need to do anything extraordinary or noteworthy from a public relations standpoint. Right now, we just have to go out and win some elections.”