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‘What are we doing?’ In wake of Texas school shooting, Obama, Connecticut Senators Blumenthal and Murphy invoke Sandy Hook

Senator Chris Murphy.Alex Brandon/AP/file

In his address to the nation Tuesday night on the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, President Biden recalled his visit as vice president in 2012 to Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 school children and six adults.

The president was not the only leader to reflect on the horror nearly 10 years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as he made a plea for the United States to embrace gun control legislation.

Former president Barack Obama and Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal also invoked Sandy Hook in their comments about the latest deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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“Fourteen kids dead in an elementary school in Texas right now,” said Murphy, a vocal gun control advocate, speaking before officials later revised the death toll to 19 children and two adults. “What are we doing? What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons we have another Sandy Hook on our hands.”

The Democrat from Connecticut spoke on the Senate floor after Texas Governor Greg Abbott said at a press conference that a shooter killed 14 students and one teacher at the elementary school in Uvalde, a small community located about 85 miles west of San Antonio.

The shooter, an 18-year-old who once attended the school, was armed with a handgun, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and high-capacity magazines, according to authorities.

Murphy challenged his colleagues, whom he did not name, to justify their place in the Senate if they refuse to act after yet another mass slaughter of innocent people.

“Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through all the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, if your answer is, as the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing?” he said.

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Murphy’s constituents include the residents of Newtown, the site of the deadliest elementary school shooting in US history. Twenty children and six adults were killed on Dec. 14, 2012 when a 20-year-old man opened fire inside the school. A major push to enact stricter gun laws in the wake of that tragedy failed in the Senate.

Murphy noted in his speech that there have been more mass shootings than days of the year in 2022. And indeed, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an organization that tracks gun injuries and deaths, there have been 212 shootings that injured or killed more than four people so far this year.

His Democratic colleague, Blumenthal, delivered his own impassioned remarks on the Senate floor late on Tuesday night.

“There are no words today to capture the heartbreak, the gut-wrenching grief and pain that those families will feel, and I remember feeling almost 10 years ago when we stood in the space just out outside the firehouse in Sandy Hook as parents learned that their 20 children would not be coming home that night,” Blumenthal said. “The same bottomless grief is hitting the families in Texas in Uvalde where they have lost children.”

Blumenthal questioned how “the greatest nation on Earth continues to tolerate” what he referred to as “needless gun violence,” rather than enact gun control legislation.

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The Senate has “been complicit in its inaction,” Blumenthal said.

He called out his colleagues on the other side of the aisle — and their efforts to block such measures from being made into law.

“It is no longer surprising or stunning. It is no longer unfathomable. Or unforeseeable. It is incomprehensible that this great nation is blocked by members of this body from taking action that can forestall and prevent it,” Blumenthal said. “In fact, it isn’t this body. It is members of this body principally on the other side of the aisle.”

He concluded that “thoughts and prayers” without action can no longer be tolerated, and called for common sense steps to be taken once and for all.

“We cannot lose courage or heart. We cannot lose the hope,” Blumenthal said.

Obama, who has referred to the shooting at Sandy Hook as the saddest day of his presidency, recalled the tragedy in a thread about the latest mass shooting in America.

Parents are worried “about what might happen tomorrow after they drop their kids off at school, or take them to a grocery store, or any other public space,” Obama tweeted on Tuesday night.

It is “long past time for action,” Obama wrote. He referenced both Sandy Hook and the shooting that killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 14.

“Nearly ten years after Sandy Hook — and ten days after Buffalo — our country is paralyzed, not by fear, but by a gun lobby and a political party that have shown no willingness to act in any way that might help prevent these tragedies,” Obama wrote.

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He continued: “May God bless the memory of the victims, and in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”



Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98. Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.