More than 50 people gathered in Comstock Community Center to hear an update on gun violence prevention legislation in the nation’s capital.
Congressman Jim Himes and Sen. Richard Blumenthal discussed the progress of HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, in Wilton on Wednesday afternoon. Members of Moms Demand Action, the Newton Action Alliance, Connecticut Against Gun Violence (CAGV) and more were in attendance for the discussion.
Himes said the passage of HR 8 in the House of Representatives was fairly historic. The legislation passed the House on Feb. 27 by a vote of 240-190.
“It’s a very simple bill that simply said that wherever you buy a weapon or however you choose to exercise your second amendment rights you will undergo a background check,” Himes said.
He said it was important to acknowledge the moment, but deliberately refrained from using the word “celebrate.”
“Until we actually pass laws and actually do things that stop the unbelievable violence I’m not celebrating anything,” Himes said. “It’s a step and it’s historic because it’s been years since the Congress of the United States even took up this issue.”
He added that while it was historic, it was only a tiny step against a problem that worries everyone. Although HR 8 passed the house, Himes admitted he was doubtful about the bill progressing further.
“I’m not going to try to sugarcoat this, there’s no reason to believe the United States Senate will take it up,” he said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that a Mitch McConnell Senate, particularly with Mitch McConnell up for re-election in two years, brings this to the senate floor, but that’s a supposition.”
Despite this, Himes said he recently has gotten interested in safe gun technology and has sponsored legislation.
“I’m convinced that in terms of reducing violence if we have the technology — and we do — whereby only the owner of a firearm could use that firearm, I think that could have a dramatic effect on the overall level of deaths and mayhem we have,” he said.
Blumenthal said the vise-like grip of the NRA has waned. In the last election the topic of gun violence prevention was a visible issue on which candidates campaigned for vocally, he said.
“We still have an uphill fight,” Blumenthal said. “Science, common sense, logic are not the driving forces.”
He added that the Senate majority leader will be reluctant to force a vote by his caucus. Despite this, he thanked those in the room and said thousands across the country are mobilized and galvanized and ready to come to Washington.
“We are going to use every possible lever we have to force a vote and make our colleagues take a position,” Blumenthal said. “They have a responsibility — a moral responsibility — and we’re going to make sure they know it’s a political responsibility.”
dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com