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Sen. Murphy calls on lawmakers to act after Maine shooting: 'We know how to solve this'

Police tape blocks off the street near Schemengees Bar and Grille in Lewiston, Maine, on October 27, 2023, in the aftermath of a mass shooting.
Angela Weiss
AFP via Getty Images
Police tape blocks off the street near Schemengees Bar and Grille in Lewiston, Maine, on October 27, 2023, in the aftermath of a mass shooting.


Chris Murphy, a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, has advocated against gun violence at the federal level since the 2012 Newtown school shooting, which left 20 children and six educators dead. In light of Wednesday's mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, Murphy said on Thursday he's been in touch with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to offer support.

“It shouldn't be a shock to anyone that this continues to happen. My heart goes out to the people in Lewiston,” Murphy said. “I was in contact all last night and this morning with the two Senators there: Angus King and Susan Collins. Unfortunately, I have this advice that I don't wish to have to pass on to other senators about how to deal with these mass shootings.”

On the differences between federal gun laws and those in Maine and Connecticut

Murphy renewed his call for federal lawmakers to take action that could prevent similar acts of violence in the future.

“This is another mentally-ill man with a military-style assault weapon. Shame on this country that we don't do the obvious things necessary to stop this from happening,” Murphy said. “You have to be careful about giving weapons to potentially dangerous people. We are not.”

He offered a number of potential solutions.

“We still don't have universal criminal background checks. Maine doesn't,” Murphy said. “We shouldn't give military-style assault weapons to anybody. They are the weapons of mass murderers. Connecticut bans those weapons. Maine doesn't.”

States could take action, he said, “but the federal government needs to do the right thing.”

Murphy said the country is making progress, citing how last year, President Joe Biden was able to sign the first major gun safety bill to pass in 30 years, despite opposition by the National Rifle Association.

“Having gone through this in Connecticut, it is maddening to watch Maine now have to go through this when we know what works. We know how to solve this. The majority of Americans support the things necessary to solve it,” Murphy said. “We just have to convince Congress, in particular Republicans in Congress, who were standing in the way of all of this, to do the right thing.”

On barriers to action at the federal level

Murphy said Congress will discuss what is possible over the next week, but there are barriers between moving from words to actions.

“House of Representatives just elected a vicious extremist Republican to lead them, who does not believe in any restrictions on guns in this country,” Murphy said of the new GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson. “So it's hard to imagine that, with this radical guy in charge of the House, there is going to be any appetite over there to do something about mass shootings.”

He said it could be possible to make progress in the U.S. Senate.

“But without the House, it's hard to get anything passed right now. But we'll sit down and talk about, you know, what can we do if we can't ban assault weapons? Can we raise the age to buy them to 21? Can we have some training requirements before somebody gets their hands on these weapons?” Murphy said.

If progress can be made in a bipartisan way, he said, “let’s do it.”

“I'm not gonna let the perfect be the enemy of good,” Murphy said. “But the House of Representatives is the obstacle. Republicans in the House of Representatives and Republicans in the Senate are, you know, the obstacle right now.”

On mixed feelings about electing a new U.S. House Speaker

Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the House, has been a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and he opposed the 2020 election certification, among other things. Murphy said he feels, in part, relief that legislative business can continue with Johnson's election after weeks of back and forth.

“I think, mostly, I'm relieved. This was really bad for the country. I did not delight in the chaos. I think it made us look silly and weak in the world,” Murphy said. “It obviously was preventing us from doing important business that matters to people."

But, he said, he also feels some sense of dread at who has been put in charge.

“They did elect, you know, probably the most extreme right wing candidate of the group,” Murphy said. “So I'm worried about the House Representatives taking an even harder right wing turn. But I hope he knows, in signing up for this job, that he has a responsibility to come to an agreement with Democrats.”

That includes working with the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Democratic president, he said. Compromise will be key, as the temporary spending bill to keep the government open is set to expire just before Thanksgiving.

“Right now we're working through a budget in the Senate that has bipartisan Republican and Democratic support,” Murphy said. “I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this new speaker is taking the job because he wants to try to work out compromises.”

But compromising, some would argue, is what lost former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy his job.

John Henry Smith is Connecticut Public’s host of All Things Considered, its flagship afternoon news program. He's proud to be a part of the team that won a regional Emmy Award for The Vote: A Connecticut Conversation. In his 21st year as a professional broadcaster, he’s covered both news and sports.