Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator in bipartisan talks on gun control legislation, said Sunday he’s “more confident than ever” lawmakers will be able to get something done to address gun violence across the US, while acknowledging he’s also concerned their efforts could fail.
“I’ve never been part of negotiations as serious as these. There are more Republicans at the table talking about changing our gun laws, investing in mental health than at any time since Sandy Hook,” Murphy told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” referencing the mass shooting in 2012 at an elementary school in his home state. “I’ve also been part of many failed negotiations in the past, so I’m sober-minded about our chances.”
He later said, “I’m more confident than ever that we’re going to get there, but I’m also more anxious about failure this time around.”
Bipartisan talks on gun legislation are ongoing following recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Previous attempts in Congress to pass major gun overhaul measures have either stalled or failed. Murphy on Sunday listed “red flag” laws and narrower background check measures as among the provisions that might end up in a final package, in addition to more resources for mental healthcare and school safety. He acknowledged that not all sides in the talks will get everything they want, including an assault weapons ban or more comprehensive background check policies that many Democrats are calling for.
Pressed by Tapper on whether raising the legal age to buy an assault weapon to 21 was on the table, Murphy said, “Right now, we’re trying to discover what can get to 60 votes.” (Senate rules require the votes of 60 senators to take up most legislation.)
Murphy also called laws enacted in GOP-controlled Florida in the wake of a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland the right “template” for what Senate negotiators are trying to accomplish.
“We are broadly trying to figure out what has 60 votes, but I think the template in Florida is the right one, which is, do some significant mental health investment, some school safety money and some modest but impactful changes in gun laws,” he said. “That’s the kind of package we’re putting together right now. That’s the kind of package I think can pass the Senate.”
Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, who is part of the bipartisan negotiations, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that expanded background checks were being considered in the current discussions.
“I certainly can’t guarantee any outcome, but it feels to me like we are closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate,” he said.
Murphy said Sunday he doesn’t know whether negotiators can reach a deal by the end of this week as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pushed for, but he said he was engaged in bipartisan talks as recently as late Saturday night.
The senator also responded to a recent tweet by the lead GOP negotiator, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who said more restrictive gun laws were “not gonna happen.” Murphy said he agreed that senators were “not going to do anything that compromises people’s Second Amendment rights.”
But, he said, there was “agreement amongst the negotiators that we’re going to take some commonsense steps that do not compromise Second Amendment rights.” Murphy later added that he thinks what Cornyn has said publicly is “consistent” with his position in negotiations.
In a paid advertisement Sunday in The Dallas Morning News, a group of self-identified conservatives, which included GOP donors, signed on to a letter expressing support for Cornyn and for congressional action to improve gun control.