Sen. Chris Murphy on mass shootings: ‘Public policy has failed’

WASHINGTON – Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said Sunday that the effort to stem mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida, needs to go beyond focusing on law enforcement and encompass a comprehensive approach to gun control and mental health.

“You can’t suppose every single time that you’re going to be able to intervene before the shooter walks into a school with a military-style assault weapon,” Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning when asked what he thought about the law enforcement response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week.

During the mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, high school, one of the Broward County deputies waited outside the building and later resigned after being suspended without pay for his actions.

Murphy also acknowledged that the gunman in Parkland exhibited several warning signs that were flagged to law enforcement officials.

“There clearly are a lot of questions that need to be answered about why law enforcement didn’t step in earlier in Florida. But there are just as many of these shootings that look like Sandy Hook, where there were no red flags,” the senator said. 

Murphy, an outspoken advocate for gun control, was previously a House member representing the district that encompassed Newtown, Connecticut, during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“As much as we all would have liked this school security officer to act differently, once you’re in the position where you’re hoping the school security guard or a gym teacher decides to take a pistol to somebody with a military-style assault weapon, public policy has failed,” Murphy said. “You should be passing laws to stop that kind of horrific incident from happening in the first place.”

Murphy added that he doesn’t think “you can just assume that better law enforcement response is going to quell the epidemic of gun violence in this country.”

The senator is set to meet with President Donald Trump this week, potentially to highlight his bipartisan bill with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to reform the background checks system.

“I was encouraged that President Trump said he’s in favor of comprehensive background checks,” Murphy said. “I’m not sure if he knows what that means. That generally means universal background checks applying to all commercial sales, but he has not backtracked on that tweet since he made it.”

Murphy said the approach to the issue must be comprehensive.

“I think there’s this false construct that’s created that either you need to work on mental health and identifying shooters ahead of time or you have to focus on strengthening our gun laws. That’s not true. You need to do all of it,” he said.

On television on Sunday, some Republicans agreed with Murphy.

Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott said on “Fox News Sunday” that he disagrees with the President’s proposal to arm teachers.

“I want our teachers to teach. I want our law enforcement officers to be able to protect the students. I want each group to focus on what they’re good at,” Scott said.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania spoke about a bill he introduced with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to expand background checks for gun purchases, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the bill they introduced is “not going to solve all problems, and we never suggest that it would.”

“One of the challenges that we face is what to do about someone who is clearly mentally deranged, but they haven’t acted out yet in a way that allows you to adjudicate them as dangerously mentally ill or they haven’t committed a crime,” Toomey continued, adding that “there’s an important discussion to be had about a temporary restraining order.”

But some Sunday show guests called for less focus on gun laws and background checks:

Dana Loesch, National Rifle Association spokesperson, on ABC’s “This Week”: “I wish that as much attention were given to the Broward County sheriff and their abdication of duty as trying to blame 5 million innocent, law-abiding gun owners all across the country.”

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that more gun laws are “false senses of security,” adding that increased background checks are like putting “lipstick on a pig.”