After Uvalde, Chris Murphy, Haunted by Newtown, Demands Action

Chris Murphy saw the photos of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The Connecticut senator is one of the few who have. The public was spared images of the “unthinkable, grisly, horrifying scenes,” he says, so shocking that the first responders who entered classrooms needed as much counseling as the parents who lost their children.

“Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the photos from those scenes became public,” Murphy mused Wednesday morning. “Would people be moved to action if they saw what a child looked like after 12 or 15 bullets went through their body?”

Murphy pretends not to know what happened at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 19 children and two teachers were murdered Tuesday afternoon. Nor will he dare to imagine the scene at the nearby civic center, where loved ones were either reunited with their children or shattered by the news they never would be.

But at the Newtown Fire Station on December 14, 2012, he huddled with families who were shocked to learn their children were among the 20 people killed. Uvalde’s shooter used an AR-15 rifle, as did Sandy Hook’s shooter. So Murphy spares no one with what emerges from Uvalde, never shying away from the heartbreaking details as he lifts the coverage from the scene. “Imagine being 9 years old and watching your friend get shot in the nose and drop dead in front of you,” he said tweetedshare a New York Times Shipping on Tuesday evening.

Gun control advocates are divided on whether anyone should publicize the gruesome, painful moments that accompany a pointless gun death — especially since it can retraumatize survivors, says Christian Heyne, the vice president of politics at Brady, a gun control group. But Heyne, whose mother was killed at gunpoint, agrees with Murphy’s efforts.

“I worry that something is rotting at the core of this country as we deliberately numb ourselves to these killings,” says Murphy. “I don’t want people to put this in a convenient box or sanitize the reality of what this is. I want people to face reality head on – and reality is awful and frightening.”

I asked Murphy to put his own experience at Sandy Hook in context. A massacre is a “crime scene,” he says. “Very often the bodies are not moved immediately. Very often these children lie on the floor for a long, long time. They know the kids don’t have any IDs with them, so the parents need to do the identification. Those AR-15s – they explode when they hit the bodies of the kids. Sometimes the children are unrecognizable. Last night they took DNA swabs from the parents. That could be because it was the only way to find out who these children were. You get shot through the nose with an AR-15 with nothing left of your face.”

Consider this the next evolution in the calls to action Murphy has been raising since the 2012 Newtown massacre. The tragedy in the then House Representative’s district made Murphy one of his party’s most vocal supporters of gun control. He offered throughts and prayers on solemn occasion, in keeping with custom not to immediately politicize deaths. But Murphy lost his patience for political deference after the Senate failed to pass a background check bill the following April. When a gunman killed nearly 50 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, Murphy staged a unique 15-hour filibuster to demand action on gun control.

After every tragedy, he’s now rushed to the Senate to deliver a fiery rebuke of senseless tragedy — including Tuesday night when he angered his fellow Republicans for nearly a decade of inaction since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Doing so is now almost a universal position of the Democratic Party. For proof, look no further than Rep. Ruben Gallegos (D-Ariz.) tweet Declare Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) a “fucking baby killer.”

The speeches and insults have done little to loosen the anchors of partisanship as Congress settles into its familiar post-massacre rhythm. House Democrats passed two gun control bills last March and are asking the Senate to do the same. Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.V.) vowed to do “everything in my power” to pass “common sense” gun laws, but refuses to eliminate the filibusters, virtually guaranteeing their downfall. Cruz, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, will address the National Rifle Association’s annual conference in Houston this weekend.

Murphy, always the optimist, will spend spend the next ten days negotiating with his GOP peers to find compromise legislation. There’s a “too small” chance that this will happen, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) admitted to reporters today, when “we’ve been burned so many times before.” But if a deal is to be struck, Murphy says, making Uvalde’s implications for his fellow lawmakers come true will be crucial.

“I would like my colleagues to put themselves in the shoes of those parents in Uvalde, if only for a second – to think about what it would be like to walk into that school and identify your child face down in their fourth classroom , six or seven hours after he was shot,” says Murphy. “I want people to think about what that’s like because it might compel them to take action.” After Uvalde, Chris Murphy, Haunted by Newtown, Demands Action

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