Is Sen. Murphy right Congress 'has become complicit' in US mass shootings?


Fact Box

  • Democrat Chris Murphy represents Connecticut in the US Senate, and was sworn into office in 2013. Sen. Murphy told MSNBC on Monday, March 24, 2021 that he believes Congress “has become complicit in these crimes” because “When Congress doesn’t act, it sends an unintentional [...] endorsement to these would-be killers.” 
  • The Second Amendment of the US Constitution firmly ensures “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
  • 2019 Gallup polling reports 32% of US adults “own a gun,” while “44% report living in a gun household.” 2017 Pew Research shows a partisan divide for gun ownership amongst Republicans (44% are gun owners) and Democrats (20% are gun owners).
  • As of 2015, the Congressional Research Service defines “mass shootings” as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event, and in one or more locations in close proximity.”
  • Statista charts American mass shootings from 1982-2020. The US hit a high in 2018 with 12.
  • As of 2021, World Population Review lists states such as California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts as having some of the strictest gun control laws in the US.

Bill (No)

Senator Murphy is out of line to allege that 'Congress has become complicit' in America's mass shootings. He is shamelessly exploiting the latest mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, CO, to fast-track his gun control agenda. Sen. Murphy's statement is particularly offensive because he creates a false equivalency between inaction on gun control legislation and 'endorsement' of mass shootings. Sen. Mitch McConnell offered a reasoned counterpoint to Murphy's inflammatory rhetoric, explaining that House legislation doesn't address the reality that no law will deter a mentally unstable person from carrying out a murderous plot. Moreover, no legislation can enable law enforcement authorities to identify potential mass shooters and apprehend them in advance. 

As McConnell correctly points out, the responsibility for mass shootings lies solely with the shooters themselves. Restrictive gun laws only serve to make law-abiding citizens less equipped to counter a threat from an armed and dangerous perpetrator. 

Another troubling element to Murphy's false claims is the baseless implication that government is the savior for every social ill. Sometimes bad things just happen, despite sensible preventive measures already in place to restrict access to guns. It's the price Americans pay for living in an allegedly freedom-loving country. We should be wary when a politician's first instinct is to demonize his opponents in the interests of a power grab. Gun control is too serious an issue to have debate shut down by a virtue-signaling politician in search of a news camera. The families of the shooting victims deserve better than Sen. Murphy's empty promises and accusatory language; he should be ashamed.

Ethan (Yes)

Not doing anything to solve a problem makes you part of the problem itself. Senator Murphy's remarks bring attention to Congress' negligence regarding America's scourge of mass shootings. By not creating and passing laws that will help decrease gun violence in the United States, Congress members are making themselves complicit in the violence against Americans and asserting that they don't care about the safety of the American people.  

A lot of attention has recently been given to the new voting rights bill, which is coming as a result of the tight election battle between former President Trump and President Biden. Meanwhile, seven mass shootings occurred in seven days in the United States, and there is still debate on whether or not gun laws are needed--even though '2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades'. There have been proposals for gun bills, including measures that will expand background checks and ban automatic assault weapons, and yet they are not being passed. This lack of prioritization shows Congress' complicity in the mass shootings.  

Congress's job is to represent the American people and create and pass laws that give us what we want and need: safety. Senator Murphy said it best when he proclaimed Congress' lack of action gives the go-ahead to shooters: 'When Congress doesn't act, it sends an unintentional but very real sign of endorsement to these would-be killers.' By neglecting to pass laws that honor the wishes of those who are scared for their lives in the face of gun violence, Congress is failing to do its duty and staying complicit in the violence.

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