▶ Watch Video: Murphy says “there are not the votes” for an assault weapons ban

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, that aired on “Face the Nation” on April 2, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we are joined now by Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. Good morning to you, Senator. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: We have you here after some of the most tragic events in our country, and this week, three of the victims were just 9-years-old. This was a private Catholic school, or excuse me Christian School attached to a church. And people who survived that now know their teachers, their parents, their caregivers cannot keep them safe. Do we need to shift the conversation to supporting more trauma treatment? Is that where we are?

SEN. MURPHY: I think we have to do all of the above. I mean, there’s no doubt that our kids are going through something unique today. I just don’t understand why we choose to live like this. Why we choose to make our kids fear for their lives when they walk into their schools, why we choose to have children who grew up in violent neighborhoods fear for their lives when they walk to and from school. Only in America does this happen. And you can’t explain it through a prism of mental illness or a lack of school security. The thing that’s different in the United States is the number of guns, the number of high powered weapons of mass destruction and the ease with which we allow criminals and dangerously mentally ill people to get those guns. So we’ve got to change the nation’s gun laws. We’ve got to put more trauma resources into our schools. But doing nothing cannot be an option. More school shootings than days in the year so far in 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things you said this week is you would look to require more training for people buying automatic weapons. Explain that because- would that require more vetting of the person doing the buy?

SEN. MURPHY: So last year, we passed the first gun safety measure, bipartisan in 30 years. And we did that because we found common ground. Listen, I-


SEN. MURPHY: After Uvalde. I want to ban assault weapons? I think it’s just absolutely unconscionable that we allow these weapons of war to be in commercial circulation. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there aren’t the votes to do that. 

SEN. MURPHY: But there’s not the votes to do that. So what are there the votes to do? Let’s explore the potential of what’s possible. And so what if we said before you get an AR-15, you have to show that you are responsible, that you know how to operate it, what if we applied background checks universally, simply to the purchase of those weapons. Ultimately, I want those weapons off the street. But I think we’d be a safer nation if we required just a little bit of training before you bought the most dangerous weapons commercially available.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the shooter in Tennessee apparently went to five different places, bought seven different weapons. Tennessee doesn’t have a red flag law. It’s unclear if it would have made a difference here since the parents of the shooter apparently claimed not to know the guns existed. But shouldn’t the purchasing itself, stockpiling weapons set off some kind of alarm somewhere?

SEN. MURPHY: I think that the different states have different laws that would require some of those triggers for law enforcement. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But not in Tennessee.

SEN. MURPHY: But not in Tennessee and I- and I do think that a proper red flag law in Tennessee could have made a difference here. If parents know that they have the opportunity to take firearms away from an individual in their family that they know is in crisis, then they are frankly going to be more vigilant about searching for that potential connection to a weapon. In Tennessee, they couldn’t do anything about it even if they knew about the weapons. And so what we know is that in states that have red flag laws, they are used responsibly and frequently to take guns away from people in crisis. Florida, a red state, has a red flag law that’s been used 8,000 times to take weapons away from people who are contemplating violence against others, or contemplating violence against themselves. They- they work and if Tennessee had a red flag law, and the parents knew about it maybe this situation wouldn’t have happened,

MARGARET BRENNAN: The bill that you co-sponsored provided financial incentives for states to create red flag laws. Tennessee apparently just doesn’t want one.

SEN. MURPHY: Yeah. Tennessee is moving the other way. Right. Tennessee is talking about allowing you to be able to carry loaded assault weapons on the streets. What we know is that states that have tougher, tighter gun laws have dramatically lower rates of gun violence. And so in Connecticut, our rate of gun violence is half that- one-third that of Tennessee. So my hope is that this new federal funding that we passed on a bipartisan basis last year will prompt states like Tennessee to take a look at red flag laws. They’re wildly popular. 80% of Americans want them. There’s no political risk in enacting a red flag law. If Tennessee had it, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Tennessee’s Governor, a Republican, is reportedly proposing funneling millions now into new school security measures including grants for private schools like where this happened to have armed guards. A version of this was brought up on the Senate floor. You had a pretty heated exchange with Senator Ted Cruz. But explain why you think he’s wrong when he says this.


SENATOR TED CRUZ: I do not understand why our Democrat colleagues in this body do not support having police officers keep our kids safe. Why when it comes to this issue, the only thing that interests them is disarming the people at home who pose no threat, rather than protecting our kids.


SEN. MURPHY: So Senator Cruz opposed our bipartisan legislation last year that would take weapons away from domestic abusers. So when he says that our interest is only in taking weapons away from people who pose no threat, he’s squarely out of touch with the American people who don’t think that domestic abusers should have guns. And what Senator Cruz’s  legislation is talking about is not just putting police officers with guns in schools, but teachers in our schools with firearms. My constituents in Connecticut, they want school security, they want door locks, they want more physical protection, but they do not want their teachers to be handed AR-15s. Our schools loaded up with weapons. What we know in this country is that more weapons don’t equal less crime. If more weapons equaled less crime, then we would be one of the safest places in the world

MARGARET BRENNAN: His fellow Texas Senator John Cornyn, who was your partner last time said we’ve gone as far as we can go unless somebody identifies some area we didn’t address. We heard President Biden say, I’m done here. So is this really up to grassroots groups and state governments at this point? Is that the reality?

SEN. MURPHY: Listen, I think if you had asked pundits, two months before we passed last year’s bipartisan bill, whether Congress was going to act on guns in 2022, people would have said it wasn’t going to happen. Things change pretty quickly in Washington. And my goal is to try to find that common ground that John Cornyn is talking about, I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We’ve got to show parents and kids and families in this country that we can make bipartisan progress, to try to make our country safer. That’s why I’m talking not about an assault weapons ban this year but around training, around raising the age, around background checks, just trying to make some progress to make sure that weapons are only getting into the hands of law abiding citizens. So I’m open for any discussion with Republicans about how we can show this country that we take their kids’ protection seriously, doing nothing for Republicans on both sides of the aisle, conservative parents and progressive parents right now is not an option.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Murphy, thank you for your time. 

SEN. MURPHY: Thank you.