Wilton was the meeting point for about 70 people Wednesday to hear Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) and Senator Richard Blumenthal give a status update on gun violence prevention legislation to supporters. The talk centered on the progress of HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which was passed by the House of Representatives in February, and sent to the Senate.
Himes started by saying he wanted to acknowledge the historic importance of the bill’s passage–and noted that he was deliberately not using the word ‘celebrate’ to refer to the passage.
“It is a very simple bill that simply said wherever you buy a weapon or however you choose to exercise your second amendment rights, you will undergo a background check. Until we actually pass laws, and actually pass things that stop the unbelievable violence, I’m not celebrating anything. It’s a step and it’s historic because it’s been years since the congress of the United States even took up this issue. It is historic but it is a tiny little against step problem that awes us all.”
Although HR 8 passed in the House, both Himes and Blumenthal were doubtful about the bill progressing further than that.
“I’m not going to try to sugarcoat this, there’s no reason to believe the United States Senate will take it up. It’s sort of hard for me to image that a Mitch McConnell Senate, particularly with Mitch McConnell up for re-election in two years, brings this to the Senate floor, but that’s a supposition,” Himes said, referring to the Republican Senate Majority Leader.
Blumenthal said that in the last election for the first time the topic of gun violence prevention was a visible issue on which candidates campaigned so vocally, making it part of their platforms, and were supported by voters because of it. But nonetheless, he says, he’s surprised at the lack of progress he is seeing in the Senate.
“We still have an uphill fight–science, common sense, logic are not the driving forces. The majority leader will be reluctant to force a vote by his caucus. Thousands across the country are mobilized and galvanized and ready to come to Washington. He and he alone controls the agenda of the US Senate. We are going to use every possible lever we have to force a vote and make our colleagues take a position. They have a responsibility –a moral responsibility and we’re going to make sure they know it’s a political responsibility.”
Himes also noted that he has introduced new legislation on safe gun technology.
“I’m convinced that in terms of reducing violence, if we had the technology–and we do–whereby only the owner of a firearm could use that firearm, I think that could have a dramatic effect on the overall level of deaths and mayhem we have.”
Blumenthal announced that next Tuesday, March 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which he sits, would be holding a hearing on what’s referred to as the red flag statute, which allows law enforcement or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. It’s an issue that he says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the committee, supports. Blumenthal added that the two are collaborating on writing a bill.
“I can’t promise that this will be a real opportunity but we’re going to use this as an opportunity to move this concept and produce a bill. The fact we’re going to have a hearing is at least a glimmer, like a crocus showing itself in early spring.” He later added that, “…nothing will happen unless some Republicans support it and you can get it out of judiciary.”
Blumenthal said two other main legislative causes are still in the forefront.
“We’re going to fight for the universal background check bill that has been so encouragingly passed in House, and we’re also going fight for the resolution that Jahana Hayes (CT-5) has introduced on the House side, which I think is going to pass there. It would forbid the use of federal funds to arm teachers. If there’s one thing that would be bad, that we need to stop from happening, is [Education] Secretary DeVos from using a ton of money at her disposal to provide firearms for teachers.
GOOD Morning Wilton streamed the entire meeting on Facebook, which is embedded below.