Nearly 15 hours after he first took the floor, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy delivered his most powerful lines of the day. Standing next to a poster-sized photo of Dylan Hockley, a 6-year-old boy killed at Sandy Hook, Murphy described how police had found the boy wrapped in the arms of the aide who helped him at school. The aide, Anne Marie Murphy, probably had a chance to escape, Senator Murphy said. Instead, she stayed. She shielded the boy and a gunman unloaded a semiautomatic rifle into a room full of students and teachers.
“It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the United States Senate for two hours or six hours or 14 hours,” Murphy said around 2 a.m. “It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a 6-year-old boy and accepting death."
It was one of many powerful pleas Murphy made over the course of the day for votes on gun control measures that he and other Democrats have been pushing. “If Anne Marie Murphy could do that," he said, "Then ask yourself: What can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never, ever happens again?”
At 2:11 a.m., Murphy finally ended the filibuster he'd begun at 11:21 a.m. the previous day, saying he'd received word that the senate would soon vote on Democrats' proposals to bar those on the terror watch list from buying guns and to require background checks for guns purchased online and at gun shows. Politico reports that a bipartisan deal still looks unlikely, and that Republicans will probably propose their own gun measures.
Many Democratic senators spoke, including Washington's Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker stood (literally) through the entire filibuster and helped close the night with Murphy.
"There is a dangerous type of privilege in this country that says if something is not happening to me personally, then it is not a problem," Booker said. "That's contrary to what we say about ourselves as a country... When you have an avenue where you can make a difference to preserve and protect life and you do not claim it, to me that is a sin."
Booker warned against "toxic" cynicism and reminded supporters that important pieces of legislation, including civil rights laws, often fail multiple times before they pass.
"Cynicism," Booker said, "is a refuge for cowards."
Of course, there are very real reasons to be cynical about government, which Booker also pointed out. The fact that Democrats had to hold the floor for 15 hours just to get a vote on limited gun measures—a vote they may still lose—might be enough to make you feel more cynical than ever. (Not to mention the fact that some Democrats get money from the gun lobby, too.)
And consider the fact that Senator Murphy, the congressman who represents the district where 20 children and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is still telling the stories of those victims three years later.
Murphy, Booker, and others are fighting hard for what is actually, policy-wise, very little. Most guns used in recent mass shootings were purchased legally and with background checks. Democrats were filibustering to expand background checks and to stop people on terror watch lists from buying guns, but they weren't proposing an all-out ban on assault weapons or even a reduction in allowed magazine size.
Murphy said he and other Democrats had picked the "two least controversial" gun-related bills to introduce this week. They are "necessary but insufficient," he said. And he pledged to keep fighting for more.
This is the kind of fight we should be demanding from the party. Don't settle for what little you can get in a broken Congress, but don’t stop trying because you can’t get everything you want either. Fight the cynicism. Take the floor. Force the 15-hour-long conversation about the murders of children and LGBTQ people and why we're doing nothing to stop them. Admit that your measures are insufficient and then keep fighting for more.