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‘Progress is possible’ on gun legislation after Uvalde shooting

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut at the Capitol on May 26. He was in office when the Sandy Hook school shooting in his state happened in 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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It’s difficult for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to express too much hope that this time, after yet another mass shooting in the country, things will be different when it comes to Congress passing legislation to address gun violence.

But he allowed room for some optimism Sunday, saying he was in talks with more of his GOP colleagues than ever before.

Murphy was in office in 2012 when a gunman killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state. And he was in Congress on Tuesday when a gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., killing 19 students and two teachers, the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook.

In response to mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., state and federal lawmakers on May 29 discussed the future of gun laws. (Video: The Washington Post)

In the years since Sandy Hook, there have been plenty of discussions in Washington, but no significant federal legislation has been passed to tighten gun laws, Murphy noted on Sunday.

“But there are more Republicans interested in talking about finding a path forward this time than I have ever seen since Sandy Hook,” Murphy said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“And while in the end I may end up being heartbroken, I am at the table in a more significant way right now with Republicans and Democrats than ever before — certainly with many more Republicans willing to talk right now than were willing to talk after Sandy Hook,” he said.

Other Democratic lawmakers also echoed hopes that some gun control legislation may now be worked out, even as most Republican members of Congress have shown little indication they are willing to support any tighter controls on guns.

The day after the shooting, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) begged his GOP colleagues to consider a bill that would strengthen background checks on those seeking to buy guns.

“To my Republican colleagues, imagine if it happened to you. Imagine if this was your kid or your grandkid. How would you feel?” Schumer said Wednesday.

Schumer called on just 10 Republicans “to stand before history and yell stop!” He then acknowledged the “reality” that most would not. The Senate went into recess without taking any votes on gun legislation.

But on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) deputized Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) to negotiate with Democrats on gun legislation. Those bipartisan conversations — which have continued throughout the holiday weekend, even though the Senate is in recess — have been “encouraging,” Murphy said.

“These are serious negotiations, and we are going to continue to meet through early next week to try to find some common ground,” Murphy said, before adding that a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks might not be realistic, even though he wholeheartedly supports them.

“But what we’re talking about is not insignificant,” he added. “We’re talking about red-flag laws. We’re talking about strengthening and expanding the background check system, if not universal background checks. We’re talking about safe storage.”

He once again tempered his optimism, saying that simply breaking that logjam could be the most important step that the bipartisan group could accomplish.

That would “just show that progress is possible and that the sky doesn’t fall for Republicans if they support some of these common-sense measures,” Murphy said.

Still, most Republicans have shown an unwillingness to budge on allowing any restrictions on gun ownership.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who is running for Senate, indicated he would not support any changes to gun laws currently on the books, saying “un-infringed Second Amendment rights” were required in case citizenry needed to “take our government back.”

McConnell's decades-long effort to block gun control

NRA-endorsed Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.) broke with the GOP last week and said he now would support an assault weapons ban, magazine capacity limits, raising the age to be able to purchase guns from 18 to 21, and other gun restrictions. The recent shootings in Buffalo and in Uvalde forced him to reevaluate his position on guns, Jacobs told the Buffalo News.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), whose NRA rating went from an “A” to an “F” after he called for a ban on bump stocks following a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival, on Sunday blasted the NRA as a “grifting scam.”

Kinzinger said raising the age for gun purchases to 21 years old is “a no-brainer,” and said he was open to regulations or even a ban on AR-15s. On Saturday in Buffalo, Vice President Harris called for a ban on assault weapons.

“I think if there’s a way to maybe when it comes to ARs, you know, if there’s a special license you need to own one,” Kinzinger said. “I’m definitely ready to engage in that conversation. And maybe that ultimately includes not selling them anymore. That’s fine, because to me, again, I’m focused on saving life now.”

Presiding over a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) called for a vote on background check legislation after the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess.

“We should vote,” he said. “That’s why we were elected.”

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Durbin said he was not certain the Uvalde tragedy would move enough Republicans to show “political courage in a very tough situation.”

“I can’t say for certain, but I can tell you, I sense a different feeling among my colleagues after Uvalde,” Durbin said. “Of course, 10 years ago, it was Sandy Hook, and Parkland, and so many other instances.”

He added that the stories coming out of Uvalde could compel lawmakers “to picture your own children or grandchildren captives of this madman as he’s killing them off one by one in that school, and realize, it is time for us to do something.”

Mike DeBonis and Steven Zeitchik contributed to this report.

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