Democratic senator pleads for action on gun violence after Texas massacre: ‘What are we doing?’

‘Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?’

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 24 May 2022 23:10 BST
Senator Chris Murphy pleads for Senate to take action on gun control after Texas massacre

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy has repeatedly demanded legislative action in the wake of mass shootings, including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in his home state of Connecticut, where 20 young children were fatally shot in 2012.

Hours after the killings of 19 young students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on 24 May, Senator Murphy returned to the Senate floor to plead with his colleagues.

The killings now mark the deadliest mass shooting in the US in 2022 – just 10 days after a gunman killed 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York – and the deadliest shooting at an elementary school in the decade after Sandy Hook.

“What are we doing?” Senator Murphy repeatedly asked. “Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands. … Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job … if your answer, as this slaughter increases, as ours kids run for their lives, we do nothing?”

He continued: “Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this? This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country and nowhere else.

“Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking they might be shot that day. Nowhere else do parents have to talk to their kids as I have had to do about why they got locked into a bathroom and told to be quiet for five minutes just in case a bad man entered that building. Nowhere else does that happen except in the United States of America and it is a choice. It is our choice to let it continue.”

In 2016, Senator Murphy led a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor, pressing for legislative action on gun control in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida that killed 49 people.

He said he spoke on the floor on Tuesday “to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues” to find a bipartisan solution to a growing crisis of violence in the US, where gun control legislation has routinely faced Republican obstruction. There have been at least 27 school shootings in 2022 alone.

“Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely,” Senator Murphy said.

“I understand my Republican colleagues will not agree to everything I support but there is a common denominator that we can find,” he added. “There is a place where we can achieve agreement, that may not guarantee that America never ever again sees a mass shooting, that may not overnight cut in half the number of murders that happen in America, that will not solve the problem of American violence by itself, but by doing something, we at least stop sending this quiet message of endorsement to these killers whose brains are breaking, who see the highest levels of government doing nothing, shooting after shooting.”

Officials have named 18-year-old Salvador Ramos – a resident of Uvalde and a student at a nearby high school – as the suspected gunman in the Uvalde massacre. He was fatally shot by law enforcement officers responding to the scene, according to officials.

At least 19 students and two teachers were killed in the attack.

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