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Texas school shooting is ‘another Sandy Hook,’ Sen. Chris Murphy says

Sen. Chris Murphy reacting to the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and the U.S. Senate’s inaction since Sandy Hook.
(C-SPAN)

“What are we doing?”

An anguished Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked the question seven times Tuesday in brief remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate. He spoke as the death toll in America’s latest mass shooting reached 16 — a teacher, 14 kids and their young killer. It would grow to 21 hours later.

“What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands,” Murphy said. “What are we doing?”

The shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday was the deadliest of the more than 200 mass shootings recorded in the United States in the first five months of 2022.

“There are more mass shootings than days in the year. Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in a classroom, because they think they’re going to be next,” Murphy said. “What are we doing?”

The answer in the U.S. Senate has been nothing. The universal background checks required to purchase a gun in Connecticut, a key change after Sandy Hook, have been a non-starter in Congress.

It wasn’t what Joe Biden, then the vice president, told an audience in Connecticut nine years ago. “The American people are with us,” Biden told Murphy and others that day. “You should know, there is a moral price for inaction.”

Murphy has a singular status in the Senate. On the Friday 11 days before Christmas in 2012, Murphy bore witness to parents who learned in a firehouse that their first-graders lay dead in classrooms up the hill at Sandy Hook Elementary.

On the Senate floor, Murphy treads a fine line when he talks about “gun safety,” the  phrase now preferred over “gun control.” In the past, he has said he seeks to discomfit Republicans in their opposition to background checks, not harden them.

“Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate?”Murphy asked Tuesday. “Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job or putting yourself in a position of authority if your answer is that as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?

“What are we doing? Why are you here?”

In December 2021, not long after four students were shot to death at Oxford High School in Michigan, Murphy talked about playing the long game on background checks, of making sure that Americans do not accept that nothing can be done. His biggest worry then was that mass shootings become normalized.

It seemed in his thoughts Tuesday.

“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 that they might be shot that day,” Murphy said. “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 here in the United States of America. It is a choice. It is our choice to let it continue.”

The Sandy Hook victims would be in high school this year. Their surviving classmates were taught safe words to use when they felt overwhelmed, Murphy said. In one classroom, the safe word was “monkey,” a summons for a teacher or a paraprofessional to come and talk.

“Sandy Hook will never ever be the same. This community in Texas will never ever be the same. Why? Why are we here, if not to try to make sure that fewer schools and fewer communities go through what Sandy Hook has gone through, what Uvalde already is going through,” Murphy said. “Our heart is breaking for these families.”

In District of Columbia vs. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a broad ban on guns in Washington D.C. in 2008 and affirmed a constitutional right to possess firearms in the home for protection.

Murphy has suggested that Heller should reassure gun owners there is no slippery slope to gun confiscation or widespread bans, that background checks and safe storage laws are no threat to the Second Amendment. On Tuesday, he pleaded for Republicans in the evenly divided Senate to join him in negotiations.

Sen. Chris Murphy said, “I’m here on this floor to beg.” (C-SPAN)

“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues,” Murphy said.

He leaned forward, hands pressed together.

“Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely. I understand my Republican colleagues will not agree to everything that I may support, but there is a common denominator that we can find.”

Murphy is the author of a book on violence in America, “The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy.” He did not claim that anything the senators would or could do is a solution to gun violence.

“But by doing something, we at least stopped 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,” he said. “What are we doing? Why are we here?”

He took a breath, then ended where he began.

“What are we doing?”

4 comments

CT-Patriot May 26, 2022 at 6:55 am

With all the Covid monies given to school districts for alcohol wipes, plexiglass partitions, masks, “air upgrades” etc. all for a virus that seldom effects children should have been used to harden schools.

Install a man trap, one way in.

All exits one-way with crash bar alarms and make them impossible to open from outside.

Proper fencing, not some weak fencing but one high enough and a barrier to prevent climbing over.

Use retired police and former military to protect the school if by chance someone did get in.

Make sure police have a blueprint of the school and it’s current so they have knowledge of layout if called.

Full camera systems throughout property of the school and trained people viewing the cameras.

Use Secret Service, FBI to evaluate the school for weak points, how to properly harden, installing man trap location.

Once you make it a location that protects it’s occupance, majority of criminals will look for softer targets.

Next, enforce laws, stop letting out or failure to prosecute criminals. Put them in jails not back on the street.

Stop the “defund police” actions. Make sure police are trained and have skills to handle all kinds of threats.

Enforce red flag laws. If someone is mentally ill and is in possession of firearms, remove them from the individual until there is absolutely proof there is no longer a symptom of illness.

Charge those dealing in illegal gun sales with the harshest penalties, life in prison or death penalty. No exceptions!

There are gun laws already on the books…time to enforce those or remove them or modify them.

Anyone taking antidepressants must be closely watched by both physicians and mental health experts. If they own firearms, maybe have a “sponsor” take ownership or dual locking systems.

These are just a few options needed to prevent school shootings and possibly other shootings.

However, someone who really wants to harm someone will always find a way.

Priscilla Feral May 27, 2022 at 11:01 am

Mass shootings are an American epidemic, and part of a broader societal problem. Reducing gun violence hinges on getting guns out of circulation. In 2021, the New York Times reported that the U.S. has 270 million guns and had 890 mass shooters from 1966 – 2012. No other country has more than 46 million guns, or 18 mass shooters.

My theory is that some males are inherently fearful and afraid of so many things, they use guns and other forms of violence as a solution.

The 18-year-old Texas shooter shot his grandmother in the face. That he had legal access to guns offers us an idea of what has to change nationwide. We need fewer guns, an effective assault weapons ban again, mandatory background checks and more gun restrictions such as what one sees in Canada, Japan and Europe — countries that avoid becoming a gun-friendly culture like the U.S.

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