Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) issued an impassioned plea to his fellow members of Congress on Saturday to pass further gun control protections following a mass shooting at a Texas church that left 26 people dead.
A gunman, identified as 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, massacred 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday. The mass shooting came just 35 days after 64-year-old Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others in Las Vegas, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“None of this is inevitable,” Murphy said in a statement. “I know this because no other country endures this pace of mass carnage like America. It is uniquely and tragically American. As long as our nation chooses to flood the country with dangerous weapons and consciously let those weapons fall into the hands of dangerous people, these killings will not abate.”
Murphy’s plea pushes back against conservatives who argue that the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the time to debate gun control, which remains one of the most contentious issues in America. However, the debate is further muddied by reports that a bystander with his own rifle may have helped prevent the gunman from killing or injuring more people.
Senator Chris Murphy's response to the Sutherland Springs shooting. It's well worth the read. pic.twitter.com/9CfEB2OM4p— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) November 5, 2017
President Donald Trump joined others on the right who argued against further gun control measures, calling the mass shooting a mental health issue. “Mental health is your problem here,” Trump said at a news conference in Tokyo, reports the Wall Street Journal. “This isn’t a guns situation.”
“Fortunately,” he added, “there was a person shooting in the opposite direction.”
While the politics around gun control are likely made only more complicated by the most recent shooting, a troubling fact remains constant: Frequent mass shootings are, as Murphy points out, a uniquely American problem. A study by University of Alabama professor Adam Lankford puts the number of “public mass shootings”—incidents involving four or more victims that did not involve gang violence or the slaying of multiple members of the same family—at 292 across 171 countries between 1996 and 2012. The United States had the highest rate by far, with 90 public mass shootings during that period.
The problem is not simply mass shootings, Murphy argued. It is the pervasive gun violence across the U.S. A Centers for Disease Control study released on Friday found an increase in gun-related deaths in 2016, jumping to 12 for every 100,000 people.
“My heart breaks for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown,” Murphy said. “Just like it does every night for Chicago. And New Orleans. And Baltimore. And Bridgeport. The terrifying fact is that no one is safe as long as Congress chooses to do absolutely nothing in the face of this epidemic. The time is now for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.”