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Transcript: CBS News interviews Sen. Chris Murphy on gun control

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who told CBS News lawmakers are choosing to "endorse mass murder" by failing to pass federal gun safety legislation. 


CAMILO MONTOYA-GALVEZ: What do you think the difference is here in the U.S., in your opinion as one of the staunchest advocates for gun control in Congress, that prevents this kind of quick policy change to be enacted in the wake of the horrible mass shootings we've had here? Is it the culture in America? The 2nd Amendment? The gun lobby? Or our polarized politics?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: I'll just caveat my comments by saying I can't really speak on a comparative basis because I really don't know much about New Zealand politics. So, I can talk to you about our politics. Listen, the unique feature of the American gun debate is the power of the industry and the lobby. They are a component of the Republican Party in the United States. And even as their position on gun laws becomes more and more unpopular, Republicans in the United States can't break the habit of almost universally supporting the position of the gun industry.You know, that is part of the reason of why Republicans got their brains beat in in 2018. You just can't win suburban districts in this country any longer if you don't support things like universal background checks. But, you know, that relationship between the Republican Party and the NRA is a really important one to Republicans — and a really hard relationship to break.

MONTOYA-GALVEZ: But senator, you've worked on this issue for years. Is it discouraging to see that you still can't get anything passed here federally, while in the wake of a horrible massacre in New Zealand, in six days, the prime minister announces a national ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons and large magazines? Is that discouraging?  

MURPHY: Well, listen: It's not just discouraging — it's heartbreaking. This is one of those life or death issues. By not keeping these dangerous military-style weapons off the streets, we're choosing to endorse mass murder. I mean, I know that sounds harsh, but I believe it. These are copycat killers in the United States. It's not a coincidence that they all use a variant of the same weapon. You know, in Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza studied the kind of weapons and the kind of gear that other mass killers had used. And they all used the AR-15. Nobody, no hunter needs an AR-15. Nobody needs a semiautomatic rifle of that capacity to guard their home. But killers need those guns, because that's how they shoot as many people as possible. And New Zealand is another example of that. Now, we're different than New Zealand. We're not a parliamentary system. Our founding fathers created a government in which change is purposely difficult. So, you know, I don't expect the United States to be able to enact change in the way that a parliamentary government could. But we've had plenty of time to wise up to the consequence of our weak gun laws. 

MONTOYA-GALVEZ: So, what is the way forward for proponents of gun measures like yourself in face of this seemingly elusive goal?

MURPHY:  Yeah. I mean, we just have to continue to build and build political power so that we continue to get stronger than the gun lobby. We are stronger than the gun lobby today. That's why we won all these elections in 2018. That's why there are 18 less NRA A-rated Members of Congress than there were before 2018. We're just going to have to continue to get stronger and stronger so that people can't get elected to Congress unless they support common sense measures, like universal background checks and restrictions on military-style weapons. I mean, it's not like we haven't convinced the public. The public supports us on assault weapons and on background checks. It's only that our political, that our electoral process hasn't caught up. 

MONTOYA-GALVEZ: So, you're confident that there will be a time in American politics when the same kind of change that is taking place in New Zealand can happen here?

MURPHY: I mean, I'm completely confident that we are going to change our gun laws to reflect where the American public really is. First thing that is going to happen is we're going to pass universal backgrounds checks. And so, I believe eventually, we will get rid of these dangerous military-style semiautomatic weapons. But the first change we'll make is to amend our background check laws. 

MONTOYA-GALVEZ: And lastly senator, so I can let you go. What do you think about the way Democrats running for the presidential nomination have engaged with this issue? I mean, have they engaged and addressed gun control enough, in your opinion? 

MURPHY: This a litmus test issue for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party isn't going to nominate anybody who doesn't support banning assault weapons and passing universal background checks. I hope that we nominate a champion, not just an advocate.I'm going to be pushing for presidential candidates that claim this will be a priority for them when they get elected. 

MONTOYA-GALVEZ: Because we've seen them talk in depth about the Green New Deal or Medicare for all, or now recently abolishing the Electoral College, that proposal, but there hasn't been a lot of talk about gun control. Is that concerning?

MURPHY: Well, that's not true. That's what people have covered. So, all these candidates are talking changing our nation's gun laws — it's just not what's being covered in the news.