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Chris Murphy Thinks Background Checks Bill for Gun Sales Could Overcome Filibuster

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Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut suggested on Tuesday that a new bill dealing with background checks for firearms could pass in the Senate despite its 50-50 split.

The Democratic lawmaker tweeted about the possibility of legislation after the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado. He also criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“For 5 years McConnell refused to put a background checks bill up for a vote because he knew that many of his members, forced to choose between the fading gun lobby and rising anti-gun violence movement, would side w the latter,” Murphy wrote.

“Don’t assume background checks can’t get 60 votes,” he said.

Murphy was alluding to the National Rifle Association’s recent difficulties. Although it remains the country’s most powerful lobby group for gun rights, the NRA filed for bankruptcy in January after years of financial troubles.

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit aimed at dissolving the NRA in August 2020 and the group paid a $2.5 million fine as part of a settlement.

For 5 years McConnell refused to put a background checks bill up for a vote because he knew that many of his members, forced to choose between the fading gun lobby and rising anti-gun violence movement, would side w the latter.

Don’t assume background checks can’t get 60 votes.

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 24, 2021

The Senate filibuster has long been viewed as a barrier to gun control legislation. An arcane parliamentary procedure, it allows a minority of just 41 senators to prevent the passage of a bill.

There are also questions about unity among Democrats on this issue, with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) seen as a sticking point. Manchin is in favor of some form of reform, however, and it is possible some of the Senate’s 50 Republicans would also support a new background checks bill.

The debate about firearms is back in the spotlight following the 10 deaths in Boulder and eight in Atlanta. President Joe Biden has urged Congress to act to stop the violence.

“I don’t need to wait another minute—let alone an hour—to take common-sense steps that will save the lives in the future, and I urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said on Tuesday.

“It should not be a partisan issue,” he said. “This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives.”

Biden, along with many Democrats, is in favor of banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines but this measure may not win favor with Republicans. However, if Murphy is correct, a separate bill to expand and strengthen background checks might gain the necessary 60-vote majority.

This could include an extended waiting period for the purchase of firearms. The man charged with the Atlanta shootings reportedly bought a 9mm handgun just hours before the murders, while the alleged Boulder shooter bought an assault rifle six days before the attack, according to the Associated Press.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks during a Senate hearing on the federal coronavirus response on March 18. Murphy has suggested a new background checks bill could overcome the Senate filibuster.
Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images

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