Senator Chris Murphy filibusters to expand background checks

Editor’s note: since publication Senator Murphy has ended his filibuster after a compromise with the GOP to vote on gun control.

As reported by CNN, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut has taken the Senate floor to begin a filibuster, promising to continue “as long as I can” until Congress acts on gun control legislation.  According to the senator, his decision comes in response to a lack of action after Newtown, a district that he served while in the House of Representatives, and seeks to close what he calls the “terror gap” and to expand background checks.  His Democratic colleagues have taken to social media to express their willingness to support him.

Murphy has only been in national politics since joining the House in 2007, and he has only a short record on guns, though his previous statements fit in with this new action.  What should also be obvious, even to a supporter of gun control, is that a filibuster for the specific ends he’s called for here isn’t the best choice.

For one thing, if Senator Murphy wants to jam up the works, by all means, let him do so.  Filibusters don’t have a great history of achieving anything beyond drawing attention to how long someone can drone on about nothing, but in a time like this when too many politicians want to rush into new laws, slowing things down is the best thing that can be done.  Republicans should vote against cloture.  Let the man talk.  Advocates of gun control become more dangerous when they’re not speaking.

But more than that, once again, how, exactly, is requiring background checks on all legal sales of firearms an answer to the Orlando outrage?  The murderer in question was investigated by the FBI, but the Bureau found no reason to proceed against him.  He was also checked out twice by the security company he worked for.  According to Nigel Fairbrass, spokesperson for G4S, those screenings involved personality tests, drug tests, and driving and credit histories.  He passed all of them.

And that’s the thing about the background check system.  If information about the person isn’t entered, including, in this case, the killer’s abuses of his ex-wife, background checks won’t raise any red flags.  Given that this killer is one in a list of several in recent history who were cleared, either to buy guns or to work in sensitive jobs, it’s a strange choice to stop work in the Senate for more checks to be done.  Murphy would get a lot more support, even from some Republicans, if he would call for reforming the system to improve accuracy, along with a general plan to take domestic violence seriously.

But the worst part of his filibuster is his support for the terrorist watch list.  How any American politician could support a secret list that has ballooned to over a million names with no due process, no clear means of appeal, and even no way to know—at least without trying to get on an airplane—if we’re on it is something that I find mystifying.  This list is a violation of multiple bedrock values of our nation, and that’s without mentioning gun rights.

But the senator must have his fifteen minutes—or however long it will be until he needs the little boy’s room—and as I suggested, when we’re at risk of going wildly down the wrong path, coming to a halt is often the wisest thing to do.  But supporters of gun rights in Congress must be ready to take up the filibuster if Murphy gets around to pushing any bills.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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