Senator Warns The U.S. Is “On Pace” For Most Mass Shootings Ever In 2017

by John Haltiwanger
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

There is perhaps no one in Congress who cares more deeply about the issue of gun violence than Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and he's extremely concerned about the rate of mass shootings in the United States in 2017.

Murphy has seen firsthand the devastating impact a mass shooting can have on a community. He was elected to the Senate just a month before 20 children and six adults were brutally gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

For Senator Murphy, addressing gun violence was always going to be a top priority, but he's particularly alarmed by what he's seen so far this year.

"We are on pace for more mass shootings in 2017 than any year in our history, and nobody knows that, " Murphy tells Elite Daily in a conversation on gun violence in the era of Trump.

There have already been hundreds of mass shootings in 2017, and thousands of deaths linked to gun violence.

So far this year, there have been 194 mass shootings in the United States and more than 8,300 deaths due to gun violence, according to Gun Violence Archive.

Comparatively, there were 384 mass shootings in 2016, and 334 in 2015.

In Murphy's view, the frequency of gun violence in the United States has left much of the country desensitized, and people only seem to care when mass shootings occur on an "epic scale."

While a shooting involving 20 or more people will gain people's attention, daily shootings involving four or more people just don't seem to generate the same response, Murphy argues.

"We are normalizing the pace of gun violence in this country, and that has tragic consequences," he says.

The senator has a point.

But between the debate over health care in Congress and the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia, gun violence seems to have taken a backseat from both a legislative standpoint and in terms of media coverage.

It doesn't help that both the White House and Congress are controlled by pro-National Rifle Association (NRA) Republicans.

In this sense, it's easy to feel somewhat helpless on the issue of gun violence while Trump is president.

But, Murphy actually seems quite hopeful about the long-term future, given the energy and activism he's seen from the anti-gun violence movement.

Murphy urges people to pour their energy into stopping the NRA's agenda in Washington.

In Murphy's view, it would be a huge victory for the anti-gun violence movement if it were able to "hold the law where it is over the course of the next year and a half."

He's careful to note that the gun lobby accomplished a lot the last time Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, and he urges people to be active in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Murphy seems encouraged by the fact most of the public seems to be on the side of change when it comes to gun violence.

"We need laws that make sure law-abiding citizens can own weapons, and that criminals and people with serious mental illness can't. It's pretty simple" Murphy says. "The vast majority of the American public support those kind of laws."

Murphy says "we have to be patient" on the issue of gun violence.

He understands that nothing is going to happen overnight on this issue. The senator said,

The modern anti-gun violence movement is relatively young. It dates from the Sandy Hook shooting. We are playing major catch-up on the gun lobby. The gun lobby has been organizing for decades, we've been organizing for a few years.

"Everybody has to understand that no great social change movement found success overnight, and every great social change movement met lots of failure before they found success," he adds. "We have to be patient. We're up against a political juggernaut."

Murphy notes it took 10 years, for example, for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which instituted a five-day waiting period and background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, to be passed after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.

While the senator says he hopes it doesn't take a decade for a background check bill, which would also require background checks for gun sales by private sellers, to get passed, he preaches patience on this issue and understands change doesn't come easily.

Murphy rejects the notion gun violence shouldn't be politicized.

After the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise in Alexandria, Virginia, there was debate over whether it was appropriate to "politicize" what happened.

In the wake of that shooting, Murphy says his first priority was "trying to ensure my friends were still alive."

But, Murphy adds,

It's an absurd notion that you shouldn't talk about how to fix a problem at the most acute moment in which that problem is presented to the country. After a murder, you don't wait 48 hours to start solving it. So why is there this period of self-imposed silence after a mass shooting, in which we're not allowed to talk about the ways we stop mass shootings? The gun industry deeply desires that a rule gets set in which no one can talk about policy chance after a mass shooting. That's a ridiculous proposition.

Relatedly, the senator also takes issue with a controversial ad recently released by the NRA.

"There's no way to watch that ad without seeing it as a preview of civil conflict between the left and the right," Murphy says.

He believes the ad essentially calls on NRA members to arm themselves to prepare for a "physical conflict against progressives."

The Connecticut senator is clearly aware of the strength of the gun lobby and the lengths it's willing to go to gain support among the public.

But he's also encouraged by the progress he's seen in states that have taken measures to reduce gun violence, including in Connecticut.

Murphy wants anyone concerned about gun violence to know that "there's good news," because "we know what works."

"States that take all available measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people have radically lower rates of gun violence than states with permissive laws," Murphy says.

Even if Trump and Republicans in Congress won't fight for gun reform, there are things everyone can do -- including fighting for change at the local level -- to help make the country safer.

As Murphy puts it,

The laws that work are the laws that are politically popular. We just need to change the dynamics of Congress and state legislatures to get the popular will enacted into law.

This is easier said than done, of course, but not impossible.