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Conn. Lawmakers Pushing Hard For Gun Control. Will It Work?

J. Scott Applewhite

Members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation led the fight in Washington, D.C., this week to get federal lawmakers to take action on gun control measures following last Sunday’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. They’re working hard to convince their colleagues in Congress to act. The state passed tough gun control laws after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

On Monday, the day after the Orlando shooting, Congressman Jim Himes, D-4, walked out during a moment of silence in the House of Representatives for the 49 people killed at the gay nightclub.

Himes said he’s done with the moment of silence typically held on the floor of the House after a mass shooting. He said it’s time for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-54, and the Republicans who control the House to bring up bills curbing gun use.

On Wednesday in the Senate, Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., staged a 15-hour filibuster. At about 1 a.m. on Thursday, GOP Senate leaders agreed to allow votes on two gun control bills.

For members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation, who are minority Democrats in a deeply partisan legislature controlled by Republicans, this was a small victory.

They had gotten their colleagues to go further than they had three years ago, after 20 first graders and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

On Thursday Murphy explained to reporters why he took the action.

“How on earth in the face of the largest mass shooting in the history of this nation, could the United States Senate ignore it in the week following? That was the question we all asked ourselves when we got here on Monday. And that is the reason why we took the floor yesterday at 11:20 and held it for 15 hours, demanding that this week the Senate take up votes on common sense measures to make sure that terrorists and would-be killers can’t get their hands on firearms.”

Republican leaders in the Senate have agreed to take up votes on gun control measures beginning on Monday. The Senate will be considering dueling Democratic and Republican bills.

Quinnipiac University Professor of Political Science Scott McLean said, “Gun control that passes both houses of Congress and is signed by a president into law, we are a long way away from that.” He said the Senate bills appear destined to fail.

“The filibuster has essentially worked. It will be brought up, it will be debated and it will be voted down. That’s where we are in this country. We are calling it a victory to just talk about this issue.”

University of Connecticut Professor of Political Science Ron Schurin says gun control is tough to pass even if Democrats are in control of Congress. He says that’s because of a highly motivated minority of voters who call themselves second amendment advocates.

“Those people will vote against any candidate, even if they agree with that candidate on other issues, if the candidate proposes any kind of gun safety measure. And that’s what’s kept a lot of politicians, including Democrats, from being the advocates of gun safety they might want to be.”

Schurin says on the other hand a majority of voters support gun control but aren’t passionate about it.

“Gun control, except when there is a horrific incident as there was in Orlando, and in Sandy Hook and Colorado, and other places, it always ranks fifth or sixth, or seventh, or eighth or lower in a list of issues people care about. Except for those who care very deeply on the other side and vote on that basis. And that’s one of the things that the NRA has used to keep these issues really off the legislative agenda.”

In the House, Himes and other Democrats were unable to force Speaker Ryan and the Republican leadership to take any action. House rules are less favorable to the minority than in the Senate.

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