“What can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never ever happens again?”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut has just concluded his nearly 15-hour long filibuster on the Senate floor. He started at approximately 11:20 am EST on the 15th and finally stepped down at 2:11 am EST on the morning of the 16th. Murphy interrupted the debate over a spending bill to lobby for amendments that would mandate universal background checks for potential gun buyers and prevent suspected terror suspects from being able to buy guns at all.
Here is a selection of remarks from Murphy during the final hour of the filibuster:
“What is unacceptable is to do nothing... What would have been unacceptable would have been to spend this entire week on legislation that is irrelevant.”
“I’ve been so angry that this congress has mustered no response to mass shooting after mass shooting… I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to become a convert to this issue. There’s no silver lining to what happened in Newtown [Connecticut], but what has happened in the fours years since has been the focus and attention on the inaction of this body and the failure of it to respond… What I have not understood is why we do not even attempt to find common ground on this floor. I’m not saying we aren’t doing important work, but there are 30,000 people dying every day on the streets.”
“This exercise over the course of the last 14 hours has been a plea for this body to find a way to come together on answers.”
Several of the 40 senators who joined Murphy, all of whom are Democrats, gave remarks down the home stretch as well. In addressing those who have resigned themselves to mass shootings being the new normal, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker said, “I think cynicism is a refuge for cowards.”
He also addressed the issue of tolerance versus acceptance, saying, “If you love your countrymen and women you don’t just tolerate them. Love actually sees the truth of who we are. We each have value. We each have worth.”
Booker also acknowledged the urgency of the moment, stressing that legislators cannot pass up another opportunity to make a real impact on gun violence in America, saying that, “We are on another inflection point in American history. You cannot always control what happens to you but you can control your response to it.”
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal (also of Connecticut) took the floor as well. “Forty-nine people were killed in that single attack in Orlando, but in an ordinary day in America dozens of people are shot,” said Blumenthal. “Enough is enough. Let’s listen to the American people. There is a consensus. Poll numbers show that 90 percent of the American people think we should have background checks… And the majority of people think that someone suspected of terrorist activity based on evidence should be banned from buying a gun.”
In addressing the ineffectiveness of state-by-state gun control laws, Blumenthal added, “Guns have no respect for state laws and nor do the traffickers. So we need national laws.” And then he, like Booker, emphasized the necessity of seizing this moment to affect change, in hopes of preventing another mass shooting. “We have an historic obligation to be change makers.”
But the end of the Senate floor stand belonged to the man who initiated it 15 hours ago. He concluded the filibuster just after 2:00 in the morning by telling the story of a 6-year-old autistic boy named Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. Standing next to a picture of Hockley, Sen. Murphy then painted a picture of a vibrant young boy who died wrapped in the arms of his special education teacher after Adam Lanza gunned them both down with an assault rifle on December 14, 2012.
“It doesn’t take courage to stand on the floor of the United States senate for 2 hours or 4 hours or 6 hours,” said Murphy. “It doesn’t take courage to stand up to the gun lobby when 90 percent of your constituents want change to happen.” Instead, he said that real courage is what was displayed by Hockley’s teacher, Anne Marie Murphy, who threw her body around a child to protect him from a hail of bullets—even though she knew the cost would be her own life.
Before yielding the floor, Murphy asked all of his colleagues in the Senate, “What can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never ever happens again?”
UPDATE: 6/16/16 12:42 am PST
Following the filibuster, Senator Murphy posted these tweets: