Democratic lawmakers spoke at a rally with young anti-gun violence activists, urging their Republican colleagues in Congress to pass gun safety legislation.
“To the United States Senate: Don’t look away,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) at a rally Monday outside the Capitol, organized by Students Demand Action.
“To Republicans, let me be very blunt: We’re at a put up or shut up moment. We need to act,” the lawmaker added, noting that he and fellow Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy have been negotiating in Congress to try to pass bipartisan gun safety measures.
The rally and lawmakers’ renewed efforts to pass anti-gun violence legislation follow the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 21 people, including 19 children, aged 10 and 11 years old. That shooting was only 10 days after a white supremacist shot and killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo. And over the weekend, at least three people were killed and 11 wounded in a shooting in Philadelphia.
It has been a decade since a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown — in Murphy and Blumenthal’s home state of Connecticut.
With a couple dozen high school and college students donning bulletproof vests in the background as he spoke, Murphy told the crowd: “This country cannot look away as our schools and our neighborhoods become killing fields.”
“You have to worry about whether you’re going to make it home from school safe,” Murphy said, adding that he has young sons. “No other children in the world have to think about that when they walk into their school other than in this country.”
Murphy, who is leading the Senate gun control talks, said Democrats were in “very real discussions” with Republicans to “try to craft a bill that will make a difference.”
The measures Democratic lawmakers are pushing would expand background checks, help states pass red flag laws and invest in local anti-gun violence initiatives.
On Sunday, Murphy said he’d “never been part of negotiations as serious as these” on changing U.S. gun laws, but noted he wasn’t sure they’d be able to get enough Republican support to get the 60 votes necessary to raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said at the rally Monday that it had been “too many years that this crisis has not been on the front of the agenda of Washington.”
“We are a nation that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he added. “You cannot have liberty when you fear your synagogue or church or mosque or grocery store will become a killing field.”
Ade Osadolor, a student who identified as Afro-Latina, said at the rally that she had been deeply affected by the recent shootings in Uvalde, a predominantly Latinx community, and Buffalo, which targeted Black people.
“Our generation has to live with the trauma of gun violence,” the young woman said. “We should not have to worry if we’ll make it out of school alive every day.”