Federal legislation in Congress to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown school massacre was pushed late this week in public statements by U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District.
In different ways, both promoted continuing efforts by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats to fight what’s expected to be a difficult battle to pass gun-control legislation, at a moment when the public is still focused on the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Murphy Thursday issued the second in what he says will be a series of several reports prepared by his office staff to deflate image of the National Rifle Association. He said his report shows the NRA is heavily influenced and financed by the firearms industry, even though it claims to represent the average gun owner.
“It’s astonishing that the NRA continues to claim that it represents responsible gun owners throughout the country, when a quick look at its fundraising data shows something completely different – it’s increasingly just an extension of the firearms industry,” Murphy said in a statement. “Tens of millions of dollars are funneled to the NRA by gun manufacturers, ammo vendors, and the rest of the firearms industry to further its goal of protecting the firearm industry in Washington.”
Also on Thursday, the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force – on which Esty serves as one of 12 vice-chairs – unveiled a broad set of proposals that it said are “intended to reduce gun violence while respecting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”
The proposals, which mirror those issued by Obama last month, include: reinstating and strengthening the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004;banning ammunition magazines with more than 10 bullets; requiring federal background checks for all gun sales, even private sales between individuals or at gun shows, where such checks aren’t typically required; and improving mental health care.
“In conversations I’ve had with residents in Newtown and across my district and in the thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls I’ve received from constituents on gun violence, I’ve heard a resounding call for common-sense policies to save lives,” Esty said in a statement Thursday.
“I’m proud to support these common-sense, comprehensive principles as a guide for our continuing national discussion on gun violence prevention and for action moving forward. What happened almost two months ago in Newtown was an unimaginable tragedy. What happens now is up to us. We must meet this call to action to protect our children, our families, and our communities.”
In a telephone interview Friday, Esty said that House Democrats will be waiting for the Senate to act first, because Democrats hold a Senate majority unlike in the GOP-controlled House – and then the House would act. She said she expects the process to take two to four months.
She said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the chances of meaningful gun control legislation passing, because of the effect that the Newtown tragedy has had on public opinion.
Esty said she had met Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, Murphy, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, along with residents of Newtown including family members of victims – adding that Biden said that “he does not remember a single event in his public life that was as galvanizing as this” as to public opinion and political resolve.
She acknowledged that there has been “a very difficult political climate” for gun control in the nation’s capital for years, “but I think that [this] does change the dynamics, and it does call into question this presumption that the NRA gets to decide what’s best for this country.”
Esty won election in November to the U.S. House seat in the district that includes Newtown – succeeding Murphy, who won the Senate seat long occupied by Joe Lieberman.