Meet the rising Dem star positioned to help Clinton on gun control

Meet the rising Dem star positioned to help Clinton on gun control
© Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA — As he crisscrossed Philadelphia this week for the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyWant to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches Situation in Yemen should lead us to return to a constitutional foreign policy Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war MORE (D-Conn.) couldn’t walk far without being recognized.

The freshman senator from Connecticut said he was repeatedly stopped by people who watched his 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor last month to protest the nation’s gun laws.


That included celebrities: When Murphy went up to introduce himself to former NSYNC singer Lance Bass on the convention floor, Murphy was surprised when he replied, “Oh, I know who you are."

“I feel like I've accomplished everything I need in politics,” Murphy joked about his star-struck moment on Twitter, which quickly went viral.

After watching their colleague win a standing ovation during his prime-time address on Wednesday night, many Democrats are sure that this is only the beginning for Murphy.

“I think now, the whole country is seeing him highlighted here tonight,” one top Democrat, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), said in an interview just minutes after watching his speech. “Obviously he was touching a nerve with his words. Not just because of the topic, but because, it’s him.”

Murphy, who will turn 43 next month, would be positioned as one of Clinton’s top allies in Congress on gun control if she wins the White House. He’s becoming the best-known champion for gun control in Congress, just as his party’s presidential contender puts the issue at the top of her list.

Murphy’s big moment began with an emotional retelling of a “soul-crushing” morning on Dec. 14, 2012. He was standing in a firehouse just outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School with 26 families as they received the worst news of their lives.

Since then, he’s repeated the story many times, including during a 15-hour filibuster for gun control last month that got massive attention.

House Democrats said Murphy’s move directly led to their unprecedented 25-hour “sit-in” protest that included 170 members, including Democrats who previously had A ratings from the National Rifle Association.

Clinton, as well as her then-rival Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate Ben & Jerry’s co-founders announce effort to help 7 Dem House challengers Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states MORE (I-Vt.), touted Murphy’s work in their campaigns. Just after he finished his marathon floor speech, Clinton tweeted out a personal note: Thanks Chris, for showing what leadership looks like. I hope GOP senators take note. Looking forward to the vote,” she said.

Ultimately, that vote – which would have tightened gun rules for suspected terrorists – failed in the Senate. The measure never received a vote in the House, an outcome that Murphy does not ignore.

“It’s funny because, we didn’t actually win any votes. We didn’t actually change any laws. But people plugged into what we did in a way that has gotten them up off the mat,” Murphy said.

Murphy recently launched a political fund to support candidates that back “common sense” gun control legislation. The Murphy’s Fund to End Gun Violence fund is backing New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Mastro — two key Democratic candidates for the Senate — and Val Demings, who is running for the House in Florida.

Over the next few months, Murphy plans to stump for all three candidates while also trying to reel in more campaign cash. He said he would also come out to events for Clinton, if she asked.

“I’m going to accept any jobs that Hillary gives me to make some progress on tackling gun violence,” he said in a phone interview with The Hill.

Murphy plans to run for reelection in 2018, saying, “I think the fight is in Congress.”

Murphy is also known on Capitol Hill for his foreign policy chops. He sat next to Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSherrod Brown says he's 'not actively considering' running for president The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster Poll: Kaine leads GOP challenger by 19 points in Va. Senate race MORE (D-Va.) on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for four years.

He’s also a lead sponsor on the Senate’s bipartisan mental health bill, which is expected to get floor time this fall.

Still, he acknowledges that most Democrats know him now for his filibuster on gun control, which dominated social media and cable news channels for days.

Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination MORE (D-Nev.) praised Murphy a day after his speech in Philadelphia, pledging that Democrats would win the fight over gun control and that the “NRA is going down.”

“The senator is a fine man. I'm glad he had the courage to do that 15-hour filibuster.. ... I admire him for that,” he told reporters. “We as a Democratic caucus are no longer afraid to talk about [gun control]. We're charging forward.”

The same week as the convention, the newly rebuilt Sandy Hook Elementary School reopened for the first time. Murphy plans to take a walk-through of the building – with that firehouse still standing nearby – on Friday evening.

“I’ve never been more emotionally connected to an issue than this one. My promise to those families is that I would deliver change on these issues before I packed it up and walked away,” Murphy said.