Sen. Chris Murphy says Democrats ‘have a chance’ to pass background check legislation in the wake of the Atlanta and Boulder shootings

boulder shooting
The memorial at the King Soopers on Table Mesa in Boulder, United States on March 24, 2021.

  • Sen. Chris Murphy said Democrats had a “chance” to pass stronger background check legislation.
  • Murphy told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he was working to get 60 votes in support of stronger background checks.
  • He said convincing Republicans to support background checks was the first step toward garnering support for other reforms.
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Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said Sunday that Democrats had a “chance” at passing stricter background check laws following the deadly shootings this month in Atlanta and Boulder.

“I’m not interested in getting 50 votes in the Senate, I’m interested in getting 60 votes. That is what’s required to pass legislation today,” Murphy told NBC News’ Chuck Todd during an appearance on “Meet the Press.”

“And so I’ve been instructed by Sen. Schumer to work over the next several weeks with Democrats and willing Republicans to try to get a bill that expands background checks that can pass,” he added.

Murphy said he believed the political landscape for strengthening background checks for gun sales has “shifted dramatically” since 2013 when the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, rejected a bill that would’ve expanded background checks.

“Don’t count us out,” Murphy said, noting that Congress had been poised to make some progress on gun reform following the 2019 mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton before Trump’s first impeachment shifted the national focus.

The renewed calls for stricter federal gun legislation follow two deadly mass shootings in the US within the same week. On March 16, a gunman in the Atlanta area killed eight people, most of whom were Asian Americans, during an attack on three spas. Police said the shooter bought the weapon the same day as the killings.

Then, on March 22, a gunman in Boulder Colorado opened fire at a King Sooper’s grocery store, killing 10 people. Police said the Boulder shooter bought an AR-15 style weapon just six days before the shooting.

“I’ve gotten a lot of calls from Republicans in the Senate who don’t want to fight this fight any longer because the NRA’s authority is fading, the anti-gun violence movement’s impact is increasing,” Murphy said. “I think we have a chance.”

Murphy told Todd that “we should be having a broader conversation” about gun law reforms, but said gaining support for stronger background check legislation among Republicans was imperative to opening the door to other legislative efforts.

“I think right now our best chance to get something passed is universal background checks, and I think the theory of the case is that once we convince Republicans that the sky doesn’t fall for you politically when you support a reasonable expansion of something like background checks, you can move on to other interventions.”

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Pressure is mounting to ditch the filibuster and pass gun reform after back-to-back mass shootings in the US

Police work on the scene outside a King Soopers grocery store where a shooting took place Monday, March 22, 2021, in Boulder, Colo

  • Calls to end the Senate filibuster have intensified after two mass shootings in one week in the US.
  • Activists say trashing the filibuster is the only way to pass gun reform in the Senate.
  • A growing number of Democrats have voiced their support for filibuster elimination or reform.
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After 18 people were killed in two high-profile mass shootings within a week in the US, calls to abolish the filibuster have been intensifying among activists and Democratic politicians as a necessary step to pass gun reform.

Ten people were killed in a Boulder, Colorado, King Soopers grocery store after a gunman opened fire Tuesday afternoon. That tragedy came only one week after a man shot and killed 8 people in three Atlanta-area massage parlors on March 16.

As the country slowly crawls back toward normality after a year of pandemic-related lockdowns, mass shootings – an undeniable reality of American life – seem to be back in full force.

Police said Tuesday Ahmad Alissa, the man charged in the Boulder shooting, bought a semi-automatic rifle less than a week before Monday’s massacre, and in Atlanta, accused gunman Robert Aaron Long allegedly bought the gun he’s suspected of using to murder eight people the day of the shooting.

Neither Colorado nor Georgia has a waiting period when it comes to purchasing firearms. In fact, just 10 US states and Washington, DC, have any type of law requiring a waiting period between the time a person attempts to purchase a gun and when they are able to take possession of the weapon, Insider’s Connor Perrett reported.

The dual tragedies have once again reinvigorated calls for comprehensive, federal gun control. But this time, proponents have zeroed in on a tangible first step: eliminate the filibuster.

Calls to gut the filibuster – the Senate rule that requires 60 votes rather than a simple majority of 51 to pass most legislation – have been ramping up since Democrats took control of Congress in January.

Supporters argue doing so is the only way to push forward a progressive agenda, including an increased minimum wage, student-loan forgiveness, and now, gun control.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted her support for nuking the rule following Monday’s shooting.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Texas politician Julian Castro echoed their support.

Castro told CNN the recent shootings are just one more example of why the country needs “significant filibuster reform” that makes it easier for “effective, meaningful legislation” like gun control to be enacted.

Merkley said if Republicans won’t “get on board” with common-sense gun safety legislation, “we should abolish the filibuster and get it done.”

Democratic rising star and Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman tweeted his support.

And the former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich delivered a concise message.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois said Congress’ refusal to pass gun legislation has made it complicit in recent violence, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Even with the Democrats’ narrow control of both chambers, passing any type of gun legislation in the Senate is unlikely. Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans on board in order to bypass the filibuster.

Nuking the filibuster could prove to be an equally insurmountable task as at least two moderate Democratic senators have voiced their opposition to doing so. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia declared earlier this year he would “never” change his mind on the filibuster and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has also said she’s against dismantling the Senate staple.

The growing list of Democratic supporters, however, could mean an opportunity to at least reform the filibuster, rather than abolishing it entirely.

But for the people who suffer the consequences of gun violence, action can’t come soon enough. Fred Guttenberg, a gun-control activist and father of a student murdered in the 2018 Parkland school shooting said the recent gun violence was both predictable and inevitable.

“End the filibuster,” Guttenberg tweeted Tuesday. “Gun safety needs to move forward without them.”

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Video appears to show suspected Atlanta shooter entering massage parlor more than an hour before the killings

young's asian massage shooting
Authorities investigate a fatal shooting at a massage parlor, late Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Acworth, Ga.

  • The suspected Atlanta spa gunman was at one of the targeted massage parlors before the shooting.
  • Footage reviewed by The Washington Post appears to show Robert Long entering Young’s Asian Massage.
  • He left four minutes before 911 received the first call about the shooting.
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The suspected gunman accused of killing eight people at three spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday went into the first establishment more than an hour before the first 911 call went out, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, was seen in surveillance footage reviewed by The Post entering Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, one hour and 12 minutes before the shooting there, where four people were killed.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department identified the four victims as Xiaojie Tan, 49; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; and Daoyou Feng, 44.

Police say Long then went to two other spa businesses where a total of four people were killed.

He has since been charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in connection with the three attacks.

The Post reported cars were driving up, and people were entering the spa after a man identified as Long on the video went inside. One hour and 12 minutes later, Long can be seen leaving the business. He left four minutes before 911 received the first call about the shooting, The Post reported.

What he was doing in the business for the time prior to the shooting is not yet clear.

Later that day, police were called to the Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, where four more people were found dead.

The victims were identified as Soon C. Park, 74, Hyun Jung Grant, 51, Suncha Kim, 69, and Yong A. Yue, 63.

Six of the eight victims were Asian women.

Insider could not immediately reach an official at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s office for comment on the surveillance footage. The department declined to offer The Post any additional details on when Long went into the spa and what happened before the shooting. The investigation is ongoing.

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds on Wednesday said the crimes may have not been racially motivated, and that Long told police he had a sex addiction.

Captain Jay Baker of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department said Long may have frequented the spas.

“It’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” Baker said.

Long was caught after a brief car chase, and officials said he was on his way to Florida where he was planning on targeting “some type of porn industry.”

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Republican Rep. Chip Roy uses hearing about anti-Asian violence in the wake of the Atlanta shootings to complain about China

chip roy
Rep. Chip Roy.

  • GOP Rep. Chip Roy used his opening statement at a hearing about anti-Asian violence to complain about China.
  • The hearing took place in the wake of a series of deadly Atlanta-area shootings that killed 8 people, 6 of whom were Asian women.
  • “What they did to hide the reality of this virus is equally deserving of condemnation,” Roy said of the Chinese government.
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Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas used his opening statement at a congressional hearing about anti-Asian violence to complain about the Chinese government and the coronavirus.

Thursday’s hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee, comes two days after a series of deadly shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Robert Aaron Long, 21, was arrested on murder charges on Wednesday in connection to the shootings.

In his opening statement, Roy said the shootings were a tragedy, that “all Americans deserve protection and to live in a free and secure society,” and that the “victims of race-based violence and their families deserve justice.”

He went on to criticize the hearing, saying: “My concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys.”

Then Roy employed whataboutism – a Soviet-era propaganda tactic used to deflect blame – as he launched into a tirade against the Chinese government.

“I think the Chinese Communist Party running the country of China, I think they are the bad guys,” he said. “I think that they are harming people and I think they are engaging in modern day slavery.”

“What they are doing to Uighurs … what they are doing targeting our country … what they are doing to undermine our national security, and what they are doing to steal our intellectual property, and what they are doing to rattle throughout the Pacific, I think it’s patently evil and deserving of condemnation,” Roy continued. “And I think that what they did to hide the reality of this virus is equally deserving of condemnation.”

This story is breaking. Check back for updates.

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says there’s ‘no question’ Trump’s rhetoric about COVID-19 led to ‘elevated threats’ against Asian-Americans

jen psaki biden capitol commission
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

  • Jen Psaki said there’s “no question” Trump’s rhetoric about Asian-Americans led to increased violence against the community.
  • She said Trump calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” and other derogatory terms led to “elevated threats” against Asian-Americans.
  • Her comments come as authorities investigate three massage parlor shootings that killed 8 people, 6 of whom were Asian women.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Wednesday that there was “no question” that former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the coronavirus played a role in escalating attacks on Asian-Americans.

Psaki’s comment came during the daily White House briefing, when a reporter pressed her on why President Joe Biden said he didn’t want to comment on the motive of 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who was arrested and charged with murder after three Atlanta-area massage parlor shootings that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women.

“To broaden it out, why does the president think attacks on Asian-Americans are increasing in this country?” the reporter asked Psaki.

“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration, blaming – calling COVID, you know, the ‘Wuhan virus’ or other things, led to, you know, perceptions of the Asian-American community that are inaccurate, unfair, that have … elevated threats against Asian-Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” Psaki said.

“That’s why, even before the horrific events of last night, he felt it was important to raise this issue” and “elevate it during his first primetime address, why he signed the executive order earlier in his presidency,” Psaki added, referring to Biden’s January 26 memorandum condemning violence and racism against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

The president “will continue to look for ways to elevate and talk about this issue moving forward,” Psaki said.

Addressing Biden’s refusal to attribute a motive to the killings, Psaki said Biden didn’t want to get ahead of an ongoing FBI investigation into the matter.

Long told police the attack was not racially motivated and said he had a sex addition.

“There are law enforcement authorities who do that, and it’s important to know when the investigation is concluded or not, so that was a bar he was working to respect there,” Psaki said of the investigation and Biden’s refusal to comment on the motivation.

This story is breaking. Check back for updates.

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6 of the 8 people killed in the Atlanta massage parlor shootings were Asian women

Atlanta shootings
Law enforcement personnel are seen outside a massage parlor where a person was shot and killed on March 16, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The majority of those shot dead in massage parlors around Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday were Asian women.

Law enforcement said that six of the eight victims fit that category. The other two killed were a white woman and a white man.

The killings took place in two locations, authorities said. The first was at Young’s Asian Massage Parlor in Cherokee County, just outside Atlanta.

Four people were killed there, according to the sheriff’s department: two Asian women and the two white victims.

Later, police were called to Gold Spa in Atlanta, around 30 miles away. The Atlanta Police Department said they found three women there shot dead, and a fourth at Aromatherapy Spa just across the road.

None of the women have been named. According to CNN, authorities are withholding the identities while they inform the victims’ next of kin.

According to local Korean-language outlet Atlanta K the women killed in the Gold Spa were of Korean descent, with one victim in her mid-50s and another in her mid-70s.

Foreign ministry officials in South Korea said they had confirmed that four of the women were “of Korean descent” and were investigating to see if other victims were as well.

Robert Aaron Long, 21, has been named by Atlanta police as the suspect in all eight killings. He was arrested after a car chase in Crisp County, Georgia, some 150 miles away.

Parts of the strip where the last shootings took place are known as Atlanta’s red-light district, according to local reports.

No motive for the shootings has been established. But they come amid a spike in attacks on Asian-Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent study, hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased 150% during the pandemic, while overall hate crimes decreased by 7%.

President Joe Biden addressed the surge in a televised address Friday, calling it “un-American” and saying “it must stop.”

In a statement posted on Twitter the Stop AAPI Hate group, formed to combat the surge in hate crimes, described the killings as an “unspeakable tragedy.”

“The reported shootings of Asian American women on Tuesday in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy – for the families of the victims first and foremost, but also for the AAPI community – which has been reeling from high levels of racial discrimination,” said the statements.

Cherly Teh contributed reporting for this article

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