Is Orlando the breaking point to finally create gun control change? The shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, June 12—in which 49 victims, mostly gay and Latino, were massacred—is the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history and the FBI has called it both a hate crime and an act of terrorism.
Senate Democrats have clearly had enough, and they’re finally trying to doing something about it by forcing a discussion on gun control.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) launched a filibuster on the Senate floor at 11:20 a.m. on Wednesday prior to debate on a spending bill for which Democrats would like to offer gun amendments. Murphy said that the Senate should first figure out how to come together on common-sense gun laws; people on a terrorist watchlist or a no-fly list should not be able to buy weapons, and that universal background checks should be implemented.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” Murphy said shortly after taking the floor.
Backed up by colleagues such as Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), and many other colleagues, Murphy told the chamber “for those of us that represent Connecticut, the failure of this body to do anything, anything at all in the face of that continued slaughter isn’t just painful to us, it’s unconscionable."
Murphy said as a representative of the parents and relatives who lost children in the Sandy Hook shooting, he just can’t look them in the eye and tell them that Congress has done nothing. Murphy cited stats like: 30,000 people are killed per year by guns; and, if you added up all those who have been killed in mass shootings, it approaches that of the number killed on Sept. 11. He asked the chamber if they could imagine Congress having not done anything after 3,000 people died on Sept. 11.
The last significant change made to federal gun laws was in 2007 to strengthen the instant background check system after the Virginia Tech shooting in which 32 people were killed.
After Sandy Hook, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) proposed a federal assault weapons ban bill that faced fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association and did not pass. President Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban signed in 1994 ran out in 2004, and had prohibited the manufacture, transfer and possession of the AR-15 and many other models with detachable high-capacity magazines. After the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Democrats had also come up with anti-terror gun proposals, but both failed when it came time to vote.
During the Wednesday filibuster, some senators read letters or transcripts of voicemails from their constituents. Several senators echoed the sentiment that offering thoughts and prayers is simply not enough for legislators to offer the American people.
Most of the Senate members who have taken the floor during the filibuster have talked about closing loopholes with gun shows, having stronger background check measures and preventing people on the no-fly list from acquiring assault weapons, among other issues. Currently, a loophole allows people on the FBI’s no-fly list to still be able to purchase assault weapons.
"If we fail to act, the next time someone uses a gun to kill one of us, a gun that we could have kept out of the hands of a terrorist," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, "the members of this Congress will have blood on our hands."
But as the day wound down, aides on both sides of the aisle told Politico there was "little real movement by the end of the day, and both sides remained dug in behind their previous positions," and that closed-door negotiations were breaking down. Despite senators in both parties saying they want a solution, the fact that we're in an election year is making it tough to make any headway on the issue because, frankly, some people seem to care more about getting reelected than our safety.
If you want to contact your representatives in Congress, it only takes a few minutes out of your day. Watch the Senate filibuster. Get mad. Contact your senators. Contact your representatives. There are even gun control form letters available that you can make your own by just adding in your rep's name and signing your own at the end. We owe at least this much to the victims and the families of the Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and many other mass shooting tragedies. We don't want more blood on our hands.