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Blumenthal, Murphy say fight for gun control bill not over yet

By Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published 04/26/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 04/26/2013 11:54 PM

Hartford — U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said Friday that the "Connecticut effect" is alive and well despite the fact that the gun control bill in the U.S. Senate has been defeated.

"I can say that I didn't see it coming," Murphy said during a press conference at the state Capitol. "I thought that when 90 percent of the American public says that they want something, even the United States Senate couldn't be bought."

The federal gun control bill that failed last week would have expanded national background checks, banned illegal trafficking — including straw purchases, or the practice of someone purchasing a gun for someone who can't buy one legally — and added school safety initiatives and mental health services, Blumenthal said.

The two Democratic senators said their plan to get five more votes on the Senate floor before the end of the calendar year in order for the bill to pass is to come up with more compromises.

"There are still ways to change (the bill) without substantially weakening it," Murphy said.

For example, senators are considering adding an exemption to the background checks requirement for a small handful of rural gun sales, Murphy said. It would affect about 2 percent of the U.S. population, he said.

Blumenthal said another area that could be tweaked is the role of Federal Firearms Licensed dealers in processing background checks for gun show or Internet sales.

If the background check could be handled electronically and the cost were reduced, this change could help the bill pass, Blumenthal said.

"But fundamentally, I share the view that a background check is already weaker than we would prefer in terms of some of the exceptions that it includes," Blumenthal said.

For instance, if the bill had passed, it would have expanded background checks to gun shows and Internet sales but not to private sales.

But despite the watered-down bill that might be further tweaked, Blumenthal and Murphy remained optimistic.

"We aren't going away, and the Newtown families aren't going away," Murphy said. "There are several pathways to get a bill back on the floor, and as Sen. Blumenthal will tell you, the majority leader remains committed to getting this gun violence bill back on the floor of the U.S. Senate."

The gun lobby might have won this round, but it is not going to win in the long run, Murphy said.

About 4,000 people have died from gun violence since the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the families of those who have been gunned down have become a powerful lobbying force that is having an effect all over the country, he said.

It is how the filibuster that Republicans threatened prior to the Senate vote was overcome, Murphy said. For the first time, there is money behind the people in favor of new gun control measures, he said.

Blumenthal said there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that senators who voted against the bill are taking heat from their constituents who were lobbying in Washington, D.C.

The approval rating for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., dropped by 15 percent following her vote against background checks, Murphy said and news reports confirm. By contrast, the approval rating for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who was a co-sponsor of the gun bill, has risen, he said.

"The American people are making (themselves) heard," Blumenthal said.

"I hope to God that another massacre isn't what prompts the Senate to do the right thing," Murphy said.

j.somers@theday.com

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